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TWO months into the Covid-19 lockdown, while everyone in the country has been struggling to cope with the consequences, the most powerful and deadly storm in 283 years hit Odisha and West Bengal, killing over 90 people and rendering 500,000 homeless. As if a massive health crisis in the form of a pandemic was not enough to test the will of its people, a natural calamity of the scale of Cyclone Amphan has left everyone devastated and in despair.
Cyclone Amphan was the most destructive cyclone to have ever formed in the Bay of Bengal, making landfall on May 20 in the Sundarbans, then Kolkata and its surrounding areas, tearing through with wind speeds of 185 kmph before moving on to Bangladesh. Incessant rains, power failures, roofs raised and flung by shrieking winds, thousands of trees uprooted and homes, streets and fields waterlogged marked the ill-fated evening for most in the state.
The next morning revealed the catastrophic damage – Kolkata, India’s oldest city in the east was battered beyond recognition. Throughout the state, communications were disrupted and the hardest-hit areas were not even accessible. While five lakh vulnerable people in rural areas in the path of the storm had been evacuated – a difficult operation in itself during the time of social distancing – the death toll still hit double figures.
According to West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the damage caused by the cyclone is greater than that of Coronavirus. The suffering caused by both the lockdown and the storm has left the people in the state in a desperate situation.
Kalipada Halda lost his job in a cardboard factory two months ago when it closed down due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. His shack made of plastic sheets and bamboo was destroyed by Amphan. Sustaining his family on a small quantity of rations provided by the government, he was already in much hardship and the cyclone has doubled his miseries. “The lockdown killed my ability to earn my livelihood for my family and forced me to become a virtual beggar dependent on handouts,” he said. “I don’t know why God has been so cruel to me,” he told Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Shaikh Azizur Rahman, The Guardian.
Kutubuddin Khan a migrant worker in Bengaluru recently lost his livelihood. Unable to afford rent in the city, he hitchhiked over 1,800 km to reach his home in West Bengal, only to find half of his house partially destroyed by the cyclone. Full story by Arun Dev, The Quint.
CNN has reported that the destruction has cost Bengal alone more than $13 billion. This is a disaster of unprecedented scale and damage and National and State Disaster Relief Forces are working on a war footing to restore normalcy to the state.
Let’s stand united in the face of the double blow dealt to Bengal – the COVID-19 pandemic and destruction by Cyclone Amphan – and do everything in our power to help those affected get back on their feet. Please come forward and make an online donation of as much or as little as you can. A little help from you can bring back the smiles on many faces. You can donate here.