Villagers salvage items on May 21, 2020, from a house damaged by Tropical Cyclone Amphan in Midnapore, West Bengal, India. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP via Getty Images)
Striking in the midst of a global pandemic, Tropical Cyclone Amphan deepened the misery across coastal east India and Bangladesh. The destruction was still far from being fully assessed on Friday local time, as many thousands of downed trees were impeding transportation across the region.
At least 77 deaths were reported in India and 25 in Bangladesh, according to the European Union’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (via ReliefWeb). The death toll is expected to rise, possibly dramatically, as rescuers make their way into the hardest-hit areas, including the remote islands within the Sundurbans mangrove forest and preserve. Amphan’s peak storm surge was pushed into this area, located on the coast of easternmost India and western Bangladesh.
Although Amphan’s top winds just after landfall were down to Category 1 strength (85 mph) from their fearsome peak two days earlier (sustained winds of 165 mph, a Category 5 equivalent), the cyclone brought damaging winds well inland, and tropical-storm-force winds—which can easily bring down trees and power lines—likely affected a vast area. The New York Times reported that many of the fatalities recorded thus far were from wind-related damage, including downed power lines causing electrocutions and trees collapsing onto homes.
Torrential rains of up to 9” in the Kolkata area—a notoriously flood-prone region—led to major inundations, including the city’s international airport.