The extremely severe Cyclone Amphan is likely to wreak havoc on the Sundarbans in West Bengal’s South 24-Parganas. However, its impact may be far worse on the stretch of the mangrove wetland falling in Bangladesh given the intensity and direction of the cyclone that will land on May 20.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sundarbans is a biosphere reserve area known for its famous Bengal Royal Tigers. In India, it stretches across southern West Bengal, while a large portion falls in Bangladesh.
Officials at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) have expressed fears of Cyclone Amphan severely affecting the world’s largest mangrove wetland.
IMD Director (Kolkata) GC Das said the landfall will be very severe and going to affect the Sundarbans. “We are keeping a close watch on its pattern. So far it seems that Bangladesh is likely to be impacted more,” he said.
The cyclone will hit any time between afternoon and evening of May 20 and a clear picture of the scenario will be available by Tuesday.
“As of now it seems Amphan will hit the Sundarbans with a wind speed of around 150 kmph. It is predicted to skirt Odisha and make a landfall in the Sundarbans. The next 24-hours is very critical as Amphan is expected to intensify into an extremely severe cyclonic storm,” Das said.
“The cyclone will move northwards and then re-curve north-northeastwards and move fast across north-west Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal - Bangladesh coasts between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya Island in Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon or evening as a very severe cyclonic storm,” Das said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting to review preparedness and ensure that all required arrangements are in place.
More than 1 lakh people will be evacuated soon from Ghoramara Dweep, Kalinagar in Kakdwip, Naamkhana, Bakkhali, Frasergunj, Sagar Island and Pathor Pratima from Sundarbans.
A special control room has been set up at the state secretariat from where the CM is likely to monitor the situation. Rescue teams are on standby across the state.
Sundarbans Affairs Minister Manturam Pakhira said multiple teams of the State Disaster Response Force and the National Disaster Response Force have been stationed at various places in Sundarbans.
“We have set up more than 300 multi-purpose cyclone centres for people who will be shifted from coastal and low-lying areas in Sundarbans. We will follow all the guidelines of COVID-19 while shifting people from the vulnerable areas,” Pakhira said.
A meeting with district officials and the Coast Guard will be held soon. “We are expecting relief material will be in place by Monday night. A proper planning is in place under the guidance of the chief minister and we will ensure no life is lost due to the cyclone. We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency,” he told News18.
Besides, community kitchens, mobile health centres, were also set up to provide food to affected people. The state government has said there is no need to panic and the authorities are prepared to take care of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Odisha government has also taken all necessary precautions in the wake of the cyclone alert.
Prabhat Mohapatra, state Joint Commissioner (Relief), said evacuation of people from low-lying and vulnerable areas of all coastal districts in Odisha is underway. Places like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, and Bhadrak are likely to be affected more. As of now, it’s seems that Bengal and Bangladesh is likely to affected more,” he said.