Amphan transforming into super cyclone, first after deadly 1999 super cyclone in Bay of Bengal
The very severe cyclonic storm Amphan over central parts of south Bay of Bengal intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm on Monday morning.
It is expected to further intensify into a super cyclonic storm with wind speeds of 230 kmph to 240 kmph, gusting to 265 kmph during the next 12 hours, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Monday morning.
The super cyclonic storm is, however, likely to weaken marginally in strength when it crosses the West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya Islands in Bangladesh during the afternoon or evening on May 20. By then, it is expected to be a very severe cyclonic storm with maximum wind speeds of 155 kmph to 165 kmph, gusting to 185 kmph.
“We are expecting Amphan to cross the coasts as a very severe cyclonic storm. Preparatory measures for damage control are being taken by both West Bengal and Odisha,” said IMD director General M Mohapatra.
Large-scale damage is expected in West Bengal and Odisha, according to IMD’s latest bulletin. There will be extensive damage to kutcha and even old or damaged pukka constructions, uprooting of communications and power poles, disruption of rail and road links, extensive damage to crops and plantations, and large boats and ships can get torn from their moorings.
This is the first super cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 super cyclone that hit the Odisha coast and killed more than 9,000 people.
There was a super cyclone in the Arabian Sea last year called Kyarr, which formed in October and was concentrated in the ocean. There were no fatalities from Kyarr. The last extremely severe cyclone to hit land was Fani, which hit Odisha in May 2019.
Sanjib Banerjee, deputy director general of IMD’s Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata, said: “Even though Amphan is likely to intensify into a super cyclone over the sea, it will then start to lose its steam as it approaches the coast. It will first weaken into an extremely severe cyclone and then further de-intensify into a very severe cyclone before hitting the land.”
Tuhin Ghosh, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University, said: “The damage that Amphan can inflict will depend much on the direction in which it travels and the timing of the landfall. If it hits in a south to north direction and there is high tide at that time, the damage could be more. That’s what happened when cyclone Aila hit Sagar Island in May 2009. But if it travels in an oblique direction and there is low tide, then the damage could be less, as was seen in November 2016 when Bulbul hit the Bengal coast.”
Authorities and people are faced with a unique situation where evacuation has to be quick and effective in the face of a deadly storm, but at the same time social distancing has to be maintained and first line responders protected.
Amphan will be a test case on how to handle natural disasters during the Coronavirus pandemic. As the monsoon is set to advance, more exigencies are expected such as urban flooding, landslides and more cyclones. This would mean the need for more rescue shelters and sanitary facilities for them.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has shared an advisory with all cyclone-prone states on disaster preparedness during the Covid-19 crisis.
“We have underlined that first-line responders like police, state disaster response forces, and all volunteers engaged in relief work will have to be provided with PPE kits and N95 masks. Cyclone-prone states like Odisha have a lot of multi-purpose cyclone shelters. But now we can use them to only one-third capacity because social distancing needs to be maintained. So, states have been asked to identify new shelters and buildings,” Pavan Kumar Singh, joint advisor for NDMA, said on Sunday.