New Delhi: Heavy rain and a high tide lashed parts of India’s eastern coast as a cyclone pushed ashore on Wednesday in an area where more than 1.1 million people have evacuated amid a devastating coronavirus surge.

Cyclone Yaas already had caused two deaths and damage to homes as severe weather and rains affected Odisha and West Bengal states before the storm began making landfall in the late morning.

A cow runs through high tide water at the Digha beach on the Bay of Bengal coast as Cyclone Yaas intensifies on Wednesday, May 26.Credit:AP

The “very severe cyclonic storm” has sustained winds of 130-140 km/h that are gusting up to 155 km/h, the India Meteorological Department said.

With the storm now almost fully on land, its winds are expected to weaken to 75 km/h by Wednesday evening, the meteorological department said.

Television images showed knee-deep water flooding the beachfront and other areas of Digha, a resort town in West Bengal state. Wind gusts whipped palm trees back and forth.

Overflowing water has breached several river embankments and parts of West Bengal had flooding, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Heavy winds and sea waves hit the shore at the Digha beach. Credit:AP

Resident Prasanta Das moved into a government-run shelter with his goats as his village was flooded. “We are there [in the shelter] with our cattle and goats,” he said.

On Tuesday, a tornado snapped electricity lines that electrocuted two people and damaged 40 houses, West Bengal’s top elected official Mamata Banerjee said.

More than 17 centimetres of rain fell in Chandabali and Paradip regions of Odisha state since Tuesday, the meteorological department said. Tidal waves of up to 4 metres were forecast.

Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar airports were shut and train services were cancelled before the storm as a precaution. Fishing trawlers and boats were told to take shelter.

A satellite image shows Cyclone Yaas approaching India’s eastern coast on Tuesday. Credit:NASA

The cyclone coming amid a coronavirus surge complicates India’s efforts to deal with both after another storm, Cyclone Tauktae, hit India’s west coast last week and killed more than 140 people.

Odisha’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, appealed to people being moved to cyclone shelters to wear double masks and maintain social distancing. “We have to face both the challenges simultaneously,” Patnaik said.

Thousands of emergency personnel have been deployed to help evacuate people and prepare for possible rescue operations, said S.N. Pradhan, director of India’s National Disaster Response Force. India’s air force and navy were also on standby to carry out relief work.

A year ago, the most powerful cyclone in more than a decade hit eastern India. Nearly 100 people died in Cyclone Amphan, which flattened villages and destroyed farms in eastern India and Bangladesh.

“We haven’t been able to fix the damage to our home from the last cyclone. Now another cyclone is coming, how will we stay here?” said Samitri, who uses only one name.

Some of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record have occurred in the Bay of Bengal. A 1999 “super” cyclone killed around 10,000 people and devastated large parts of Odisha. Due to improved forecasts and better-coordinated disaster management, the death toll from Cyclone Phailin, an equally intense storm that hit in 2013, was less than 50, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

The 1999 super cyclone reached wind speeds of 260-280 km/h.


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