Coronavirus updates: Full day coverage of Wednesday May 20, 2020

Cyclone evacuation in India and Bangladesh complicated by virus


More than 2.6 million people have been moved to shelters in coastal India and Bangladesh, fleeing Cyclone Amphan in a frantic evacuation made more challenging by coronavirus.

With wind speeds ranging between 160 and 170km/h, the storm could cause extensive damage: winds and heavy rain battering flimsy houses, a storm surge that may push seawater 25km inland and the possibility of flooding in crowded cities like Kolkata.

Bangladesh is attempting to evacuate 2.2 million people to safety. India’s West Bengal state evacuated nearly 300,000. Odisha state has evacuated 148,486 people, said Pradeep Jena, the state official in charge of managing disasters.

Masks and hand-sanitisers were hastily added to the emergency items stocked in storm shelters. But the pandemic has made it harder to save lives.

Indian villagers take shelter in a school building as they evacuate before Cyclone Amphan arrives. (Source: AAP)

A man under an umbrella walks in heavy rain and wind as cyclone Amphan approaches the Odisha coast, Paradeep, India, 20 May 2020. (Source: AAP)

Some cyclone shelters in West Bengal were used for quarantining COVID-19 patients and migrant workers travelling after India’s lockdown was eased, officials said. Some schools are now being used to shelter people, news reports said.The West Bengal government has also asked that the special trains for migrant workers be suspended, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Some in the cyclone’s path saw a choice between the virus and the storm.

Many in the seaside resort town of Digha feared going to the shelters, fisherman Debasis Shyamal said. “They have been home for weeks, and are afraid of going into a crowd where they could get infected,” he said.

Pradeep Jena, the Odisha state official, said there was no precedent for managing a cyclone in the midst of a pandemic, and the need to maintain social distance means the state would need many more shelters than usual.

– Reported with AAP

Satellite image released by NASA shows Cyclone Amphan over the Bay of Bengal in India.