'Super Cyclone' Amphan wreaks havoc in India and Bangladesh

A coastal home in Patuakhali district, Bangladesh, one of the coastal districts worst hit by Super Cyclone Amphan.

'Super Cyclone' Amphan hit across the Bay of Bengal on 19th-0th May, reaching speeds of 180km/hour – the fastest storm ever recorded in the bay – killing over 80 people and destroying countless homes in India and Bangladesh. With resources already stretched by the coronavirus crisis, CARE colleagues from the affected regions report on the damage they are now in the process of helping people to cope with.

Walter Mawsaa, Acting Country Director, CARE Bangladesh, says:

Many people in Bangladesh's coastal south-west had a long sleepless night on Wednesday night, with Cyclone Amphan bringing winds of up to 180kmph. Today CARE and other responding agencies are surveying the damage and taking stock of people's immediate needs. Low-lying coastal areas, which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, have been flooded by heavy rain and large waves.

It's not yet known how many houses have been destroyed, but it's clear that many people are going to require urgent shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation. Entire communities will need long-term support to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

Thankfully the refugee camps which are home to 850,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh did not end up being in the path of the cyclone, but many vulnerable Bangladeshis are going to require aid and assistance in the days, weeks and months to come.

Street scene in Odisha during cyclone Amphan
Heavy rains and strong winds batter a street in Odisha, India

The damage caused in India appears to be even more severe. Shantamay Chatterjee, Regional Programme Director at CARE India in Bhubaneswar, said:

Cyclone Amphan hit Odisha on 19th May 2020 evening with fury before moving onto West Bengal on 20th May afternoon ravaging people’s lives and state economy. Before the actual landfall on 20th May afternoon, around the coastal town of Digha in West Bengal, 6 districts of Odisha already witnessed heavy rain and wind speed up to 120 kms/hour that lay waste to crops, livestock and temporary shelters. Last year the Cyclone Fani had rendered 1.5 million people without livelihood and shelter in Odisha and before the people could rebuild their lives, another devastation hit them with cruelty.

The state of Odisha and West Bengal were already reeling under acute health, economic and social security crises with lock down during the COVID-19 response, and have exhausted their food and relief resources. Shantamay says: 

The burden of providing food relief to people across the states now is challenged by the additional burden of food and livelihood of an estimated 2 million migrants returning to the states and being put up in quarantine shelters for active case detection. Planned evacuation of around 1 million people on time have saved lives with only so far reported 12 casualties, but on the overall the impact of Amphan is far beyond imagination.

Man wading through floodwater, Odisha, India
A scene from Kendrapara, Odisha, India, captured by CARE staff

Amphan destroyed thatched houses and semi-solid housing structures, laid waste to standing and newly sown summer crops of paddy, pulses, vegetables; and damaged critical power, communication, water, river dams, roads, forestation and livestock in abundance. Shantamay concludes:

Amphan truly destroyed people’s hope in the two states of Odisha and West Bengal in India to revive lives while they waged war against COVID-19. Today an estimated 4 million people stand exposed to severe hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and exposure to diseases. The state governments have exhausted their financial and food resources. There has been negligible donor and corporate support available to the state of Odisha during Fani and COVID-19 and now both states stand before the world with expectation of support to rekindle hope in lives of people.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.