Amphan: Kolkata devastated as cyclone leaves trail of death

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Reuters

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Most of those who died were hit by falling trees or debris

The city of Kolkata, in eastern India, was devastated by a powerful cyclone that killed at least 22 people across India and Bangladesh.

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Storm Amphan hit the land on Wednesday, attacking coastal areas with fierce wind and rain. Now it is weakening as it moves north to Bhutan.

Thousands of trees have been uprooted in gales, overturned electricity and telephone lines and destroyed houses.

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Many of Calcutta's roads are flooded and its 14 million people are without power.

The storm is the first super cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal since 1999. Although its winds had weakened when it occurred, it was still classified as a very severe cyclone.

Coronavirus restrictions have hampered emergency and relief efforts. Covid-19 and social distance measures made mass evacuations more difficult, with shelters unable to be used at full capacity.

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Media captionCyclone Amphan wreaks havoc in India and Bangladesh

Amphan started hitting the Sundarbans, a mangrove area around the India-Bangladesh border and home to four million people on Wednesday afternoon, before heading north and northeast towards Kolkata, a historic city that was the capital of British Raj.

Parts of the states of West Bengal and Orissa (Odisha), India, and areas of southwest Bangladesh, have suffered the impact, with winds of up to 185 km / h.

So far, at least 10 deaths in Bangladesh and 12 in the Indian state of West Bengal have been confirmed by the authorities.

The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, said the devastation in Calcutta, the state capital, was "a greater disaster than Covid-19".

"Area after area has been ruined," Banerjee told the Press Trust of India news agency. "I experienced a war situation today".

Three West Bengal districts – South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore – were hard hit. In Bangladesh, the most affected district was Satkhira, where large areas were flooded when landfills collapsed in several places.

Initial damage assessments are being hampered by blocked roads and floods in all of these areas.

BBC Bengali's Amitabha Bhattasali in Calcutta says that much of the city and its surrounding districts have been without electricity for a day. Mobile phone networks are not working in some of the hardest hit areas.

Dramatic images shared on social media showed electricity transformers exploding in bustling neighborhoods as the storm swept through the city.

"Thank God, we are safe," said one resident, who shared images of roofs being blown off by the wind and blown away.

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EPA

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Wind gusts up to 185 km / h (115 mph) palm trees bent off the coast of Orissa

Local news networks showed uprooted traffic lights in the flooded streets, as well as broken jetties and vehicles crushed under fallen trees.

"Trees uprooted, broken power supply, broken lamp posts, glass panels in the destroyed location, Internet connections flickered. Children were screaming," resident Shamik Bag told the BBC.

"Even with all the doors and windows closed, my house groaned under the pressure of the howling wind outside. In 45 minutes, the streets outside were flooded, even when the floodwaters ran down the houses.

"When the power lines were restored after the storm, the neighborhood kids, like our childhood, when power cuts were rampant, exploded in a spontaneous and joyful chorus."

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Reuters

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More than 500,000 people were evacuated in West Bengal before the storm

Kajal Basu, who lives on the 12th floor of a building in the city, wrote on Facebook after the storm started: "It's like the vault of hell outside."

The building seemed to "rock from side to side, mimicking an earthquake," he said. "Sounds of tortured metal, glass breaking. Uprooted palm trees. The power lines were cracking and spitting in three nearby places."

Kolkata's soggy roads "looked like a dark, slippery reptile on Wednesday night, while howling winds continued to haunt the city's deserted, amphibian-ridden corridors," the Telegraph newspaper reported.

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Parts of Calcutta airport are submerged after the storm

Most people were at home when the storm hit. Kolkata and the rest of India are under arrest because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bangladeshi officials fear Amphan is the most powerful storm since Cyclone Sidr, which killed some 3,500 people in 2007. Most died as a result of rising seawater.

India's meteorological department predicted storm peaks as high as 10-16 feet (3-5 meters). In this way, rising sea levels can send deadly walls of water barring inland, devastating communities.

Meteorologists have also warned of deadly floods and landslides.

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