May 20 Cyclone Amphan news

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12:47 p.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Cyclone Amphan kills at least 12 people in India

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

At least 12 people have died in India after Cyclone Amphan made landfall earlier today, authorities said.

All the reported deaths took place in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, according the state chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Banerjee said one of the victims, a girl in the Howrah district, died after a wall from her house collapsed. She did not provide any further details how the rest of the deaths occurred.

Bangladesh Oxfam director, Dipankar Datta, told CNN that thousands of makeshift homes in Bangladesh have been uprooted due to the cyclone. He added that he does not expect the storm to hit the Rohingya refugee camp area in Cox’s Bazaar.

Some background: Cyclone Amphan made landfall near Sagar Island in West Bengal, India, close to the Bangladeshi border around 5 p.m. local time with sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph), according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center, making it equivalent in intensity to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane.

Heavy rain is expected to lead to flash flooding across the region through Thursday morning. Once the storm pushes inland, it will weaken significantly and the storm is expected to dissipate by Friday.

 

11:33 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

India evacuates pregnant women from Odisha state's coastal areas

Officials in Bhadrak, a city in the Indian state of Odisha, have evacuated 218 Pregnant women from the area's coastal villages to health centres, the Indian government has said.

The Indian government said on Twitter that 60 of the evacuated women gave birth on May 19 and 20 under special medical care, as officials braced for the cyclone.

More than 150,000 people have been evacuated from Odisha's coastal areas, the director general of India's National Disaster Relief Force Satya Narayan Pradhan said earlier on Wednesday.

10:58 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Bangladesh says Cox's Bazar camp is prepared for cyclone

From CNN's Salman Saeed

Rohingya refugees are pictured at a Kutupalong Rohingya camp market in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on May 15.
Rohingya refugees are pictured at a Kutupalong Rohingya camp market in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on May 15. Suzauddin Rubel/AP

A Bangladeshi official has claimed that Cox's Bazar, a series of camps housing nearly one million Rohingya refugees, is prepared for Cyclone Amphan.

"For the cyclone we are prepared. We have tightened the huts of the refugees," Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md. Mahbub Alam Talukder told CNN.

"All 32 camps have trained volunteers ready. We have mosques and other learning center[s] if we need to relocate the refugees for safety."

“Today the weather was very cloudy and gloomy. The weather is too bad and [we] were not happy with the cyclone," Amir Hossain, a Rohingya refugee at the Kutupalong camp, told CNN.

 "If the cyclone hit the camp all the refugees will be in the danger as our huts are weak.”

Officials at Cox's Bazar were already grappling with the threat of coronavirus before the storm hit.

The first known Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the camp last week.

10:38 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Indian migrant workers stranded until storm passes

From CNN's Esha Mitra

Thousands of Indian migrant workers attempting to return home to the country's Odisha state remain stranded after the cyclone forced the cancelation of special trains to the region, a senior railways official has said.

Migrant workers across India have been out of work and away from home since March 25, when a nationwide coronavirus lockdown came into effect. 

Special trains had been designated to take the workers home, but 15 scheduled to run along Odisha's coastal region were suspended from May 19 to 21, railway spokesperson J.P. Mishra said.

“We hope to resume trains for coastal Odisha as soon as the cyclone subsides,” J.P Mishra told CNN.

The local government will loosen some COVID19-related travel restrictions to allow the flow of aid and support for those evacuated from the cyclone's path, Mishra added. 

Of Odisha's 809 permanent cyclone shelters, 211 are currently being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers. Schools and colleges have been converted to fill that gap.

10:06 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Cyclone threatens women and girls in Cox's Bazar camps, International Rescue Committee says

Rohingya women at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in December 2019.
Rohingya women at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in December 2019. Allison Joyce/Getty Images

Women and girls living in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh are vulnerable to an increase in gender-based violence, as the cyclone and coronavirus threaten their security, the International Rescue Committee's Bangladesh director, Manish Agrawal, has said.

The sprawling camps of Cox's Bazar are home to nearly one million stateless Rohingya refugees. While the camps on Bangladesh's east coast aren't directly in the cyclone's path, they are likely to be hit by severe weather.

"Life could not be more precarious for the nearly half a million women and girls who are already trapped in their homes as well as the children who make up over half of the camp’s residents," Agrawal said.

"Many of them have experienced gender-based violence, often at the hands of their partners, and now they risk having their homes uprooted to be forced into more condensed spaces."

He added that an "unimaginable" strain would be put on relationships and families in the camp "and there is a real risk that gender-based violence will increase as the cyclone takes hold.”

8:57 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Cyclone Amphan makes landfall in India near Bangladeshi border

From CNN's Brandon Miller

Residents walk along a flooded street in Dacope, Bangladesh, on Wednesday as they head to a shelter before cyclone Amphan made landfall.
Residents walk along a flooded street in Dacope, Bangladesh, on Wednesday as they head to a shelter before cyclone Amphan made landfall. Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Cyclone Amphan has made landfall near Sagar Island in West Bengal, India, close to the Bangladeshi border.

The storm made landfall around 5 p.m. local time with sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph), according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center, making it equivalent in intensity to a category 2 Atlantic hurricane.

The center of the cyclone is currently 80 km south of Kolkata, West Bengal's capital, which has observed wind speeds up to 105 kph already.

Storm surge up to 5 meters (17 feet) is likely occurring along the coastline as Amphan continues to push inland across eastern India and Bangladesh. 

Heavy rain is also likely to lead to flash flooding across the region through Thursday morning. Once the storm pushes inland it will weaken significantly and is expected to dissipate by Friday.

8:20 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

India braces for extensive damage to housing and infrastructure in West Bengal

The Indian government has said the cyclone's strong winds, heavy rainfall and tidal waves are likely to cause "large scale and extensive damage" across multiple districts in West Bengal.

In a tweet, the government said "extensive damage" was expected "to all types of kutcha houses," which are typically made of flimsy materials like mud and bamboo.

Some damage is also expected to old buildings.

The government said that communications and power poles were also likely to be damaged, as were crops and plantations.

Amphan is likely to make landfall late afternoon local time near the city of Kolkata, West Bengal's capital.

7:28 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Storm badly damages parts of Sundarbans forest reserve, home to 96 protected tigers

Amphan's rains have started to affect the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest which crosses India and Bangladesh. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site known for being a habitat for rare and endangered species.

There are currently 96 protected tigers in the Sundarban forest reserve.

“We have a nylon net fence along the whole boundary which has prevented tigers from getting into settlement areas for the last five to six years," West Bengal's principal chief conservator of forests and wildlife Ravi Kant Sinha said.

"Our effort is to keep that maintained," he added on Wednesday.

"If anything happens [to the tigers] we have our rapid response teams with tranquilization nets and traps ready to tackle the situation."

“[The cyclone] has already started hitting the forest areas, a few of our locations are badly damaged, very high speed winds and water has entered our locations," Sinha said.

"Since this is a natural sanctuary we don’t do anything to interfere, whatever comes down naturally is left as is but the tigers are all fine."

7:20 a.m. ET, May 20, 2020

Response teams in India equipped with PPE during cyclone

India's National Disaster Response Force warn people about Cyclone Amphan in Namkhana, West Bengal, India, on May 19.
India's National Disaster Response Force warn people about Cyclone Amphan in Namkhana, West Bengal, India, on May 19. National Disaster Response Force/AP

Cyclone Amphan has created a "fast changing, transforming situation" in India, the director general of the country's National Disaster Relief Force Satya Narayan Pradhan has said.

“Our work, in terms of restoration and recovery, begins after the cyclone landfall. This is a long-haul process," Pradhan said Wednesday, speaking at a press conference in Delhi.
“All 20 [disaster relief] teams in Odisha are on ground. No one is on standby anymore. All teams have been called in.”
“In West Bengal, out of the total 21 [teams], 19 are on ground. One of the two teams on standby are now in Kolkata to look after the urban areas.”

A tweet sent by the Indian government to accompany Pradhan's remarks added that all the teams were equipped with PPE, as officials try to deal with the storm amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

India recorded its largest single-day coronavirus spike on Wednesday with 5,611 new cases.

Pradhan said more than half a million people had been evacuated across Odisha and West Bengal.

“With regards to evacuation, the latest figures from state officials are more than 500,000 people have been evacuated in West Bengal and over 158,640 in Odisha," he said.