A powerful cyclone pounded eastern India and Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and destroying thousands of homes, officials said, leaving authorities struggling to mount relief efforts amid a surging coronavirus outbreak.
The populous Indian state of West Bengal took the brunt of Cyclone Amphan, which barrelled out of the Bay of Bengal with gusting winds of up to 185 km per hour (115 mph) and a storm surge of around five metres.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at least 10 people had died in the state, and two districts been completely battered by one of the strongest storms to hit the region in several years.
With rains continuing, she said the hardest hits areas were not immediately accessible. Federal authorities said they could only make a proper assessment of the destruction on Thursday morning.
“We are facing greater damage and devastation than the CoVID-19,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has so far killed 250 people in the state.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, at least four people were killed, officials said, with power supplies cut off in some districts.
Authorities there had shifted around 2.4 million people to more than 15,000 storm shelters this week. Bangladeshi officials also said they had moved hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living on a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, to shelter.
But officials said they feared that standing crops could be damaged and large tracts of fertile land in the densely-populated country washed away.