August 3, 2021

The eastern coast of India hit by cyclone Yaas

Less than two weeks after the passage of Tauktae on the west coast, India is again struck by a tropical storm. Cyclone Yaas, which formed in the Bay of Bengal, began to sweep the coastal areas of West Bengal and Odisha states on Wednesday May 26 at a time when the country faces a terrible epidemic. of Covid-19.

Accompanied by waves, some of which reached up to four meters and gusts of up to 150 kilometers per hour, the storm made landfall at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday (5:30 a.m. in Paris), according to the Indian meteorological department. It resulted in the deaths of at least four people and the evacuation of over 1.5 million others.

Cyclone Tauktae, the first major tropical storm of the season that hit the state of Gujarat on May 17, killed at least 155 people in the west of the country.

According to Mamata Banerjee, Prime Minister of the State of West Bengal, the seaside resort of Digha was “Submerged” by waves the height of a double-decker bus. “The swollen rivers also inundated over twelve islands and breached a number of dykes”added Mme Banerjee. Some 20,000 houses were damaged. “I have never seen such a storm in my life”, said Purnendu Jana who lives in Digha.

Read also Cyclone Tauktae leaves India scarred, with more than 55 dead and more than 90 missing

Evacuations, fight against Covid-19 disrupted

Torrential rains accompanied by strong winds had been hitting coastal towns and villages since the day before. Authorities in Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, ordered the international airport to close for most of the day on Wednesday. The airport in Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha, did the same. “Every life is precious”, said Odisha Prime Minister Naveen Patnaik, calling on the population not to “Panic” and to move away from the coasts.

Nearly 5,000 rescuers were mobilized in the two threatened states, equipped with emergency communication means, outboard inflatable boats and medical assistance, detailed the National Disaster Response Force.

Yaas is expected to locally disrupt efforts to fight Covid-19, which is ravaging urban and rural communities. The epidemic has claimed the lives of some 310,000 people in total. Some vaccination centers in the coastal districts of West Bengal and Calcutta have suspended their activities, and a special effort has been made to ensure the supply of oxygen and medicine to hospitals, according to the authorities.

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In neighboring Bangladesh, a man was killed by a fallen tree and raging waves flooded thousands of homes. A freighter carrying stones sank in the Bay of Bengal, but its crew were rescued, the army said.

Satellite image provided by NASA of Cyclone Yaas approaching the coast of India on May 25, 2021.

Experts agree that the frequency and intensity of storms in the waters around India is increasing as the climate and water temperature warms. Some of the deadliest storms in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal, including a cyclone that in 1970 killed half a million people in the region that has become Bangladesh.

The deadliest cyclone on record in Odisha in 1999 killed 10,000 people.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters