Cyclone batters eastern India, 1.2 million seek shelter

India begins evacuation of thousands ahead of cyclone

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Bhubaneswar: As the country is preparing to carry out a powerful hurricane on the east coast of the country, thousands of people are being evacuated from the coastal areas of India in two states, which complicates the control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cyclone Yaas, the second storm to hit the country in a week, is set to turn into a “very severe cyclonic storm” with wind speeds of up to 110 miles per hour (177 kph), the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The storm, brewing in the Bay of Bengal, will likely come ashore near the border between Odisha and West Bengal states early on Wednesday, accompanied by storm surge of around four metres (13 ft) that could reach up to 7 km (4 miles) inland, according to the IMD.

“Our target is to ensure that not a single life is lost,” said Bankim Hazra, a minister in West Bengal state, where more than 1,500 people have already been evacuated from a low-lying island.

Senior official Pradeep Jena said that in Odisha, the state government’s goal is to complete all evacuation by Tuesday afternoon, including sending approximately 6,500 pregnant women to the hospital.

For state authorities that have responded to the surge in COVID-19 infections, the cyclone may complicate the problem, which has already put heavy pressure on the health infrastructure.

Hospitals had been provided with power back-up, along with buffer stocks of oxygen and medicines, said Rajendra Singh, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority.

The National Disaster Response Force has already deployed nearly 100 teams and armed forces have been asked to remain on stand-by to assist with rescue and relief operations, Singh said.

Odisha and West Bengal have suspended fishing and maritime work until Wednesday, while ports on the east coast have also restricted activities.

Last week, Hurricane Tauktae was the most costly hurricane to hit western India in more than two decades. It shelled the interior, killing more than 150 people and leaving behind devastating traces.

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