Cyclone Yaas unlikely to match intensity of super cyclonic storm Amphan, says IMD
Cyclone Yaas, which may hit the West Bengal coast on May 26, is unlikely to match the intensity of Amphan, which had assumed the shape of a Super Cyclone last year at about the same time.
“Probability is highest that Yaas will hit the West Bengal coast after intensifying into a very severe cyclone. As of now it is unlikely to match the intensity of Amphan,” said GK Das, director of the IMD’s regional office in Kolkata.
On May 25, the wind speed along the West Bengal coastline, while the cyclone is still at sea, would be around 50-60 km per hours gusting up to 70 km per hour. In the early hours of May 26, the wind speed would be around 60–70 km per hour and gusting up to 80 km per hour.
“In the forenoon of May 26 the wind speed will reach around 100 km per hour. In the evening as the cyclone approaches, the wind speed would pick up further and may remain around 120 km per hour,” said Das.
Amphan had hit the Sunderbans in south Bengal on May 20 last year with a wind speed of 155–165 km per hour and gusting up to 185 km per hour. It had killed 98 people while pummelling through six districts.
“It had intensified into a Super Cyclone over the sea around May 18, but had weakened into a very severe cyclone before hitting the Bengal coast on May 20,” said a senior official.
But it is not Cyclone Yaas alone that is worrying experts and officials. The spring tide, which coincides with the full moon, is also on May 26.
“During the spring tide the water level in the sea and estuaries remains higher than normal and the tides are much higher. If the timing coincides with Cyclone Yaas, the storm surge would be much higher and devastating. Embankments in the Sunderbans may breach and large areas may get flooded. The devastation would be more if the cyclone strikes in an east to west direction as was seen during Cyclone Aila in May 2009,” said Tuhin Ghosh, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University.
District administrations particularly in the coastal block and Sunderban islands have already started strengthening the embankments that form the only barricades between the rivers and villages.
“We have already started strengthening the embankments and increasing their height so that the water cannot enter the villages over the top of the embankments,” said a senior official of North 24 Parganas, associated with disaster management.
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to the worries of the administration. Even though Cyclone Amphan had also hit when Covid-19 was taking its toll, this time the situation is more alarming.
On May 20, 2020 when Amphan had made landfall, West Bengal had registered 142 new Covid-19 cases. On May 20 this year the state recorded 19,091 cases.
“Last year on May 20, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore, the three coastal districts which always bear the first brunt of cyclones, had only 234, 66 and 21 active cases respectively. Now, the same districts have 27,268, 8,290 and 5,498 active cases respectively,” said a health department official.
District officials said that the number of cyclone and relief shelters, where evacuated people would be kept, was being increased by roping in school and college buildings so that social distancing could be maintained.
“Safe homes were being set up in such buildings so that anyone showing symptoms could be isolated after a Rapid Antigen Test. Ambulances were being kept ready and oxygen was being stored in district hospitals and rural health centres. Teams from the electric supply department were also being kept on standby so that in case of power cuts generators could be used,” said a BDO of South 24 Parganas.
In the villages of coastal districts, district officials have already started making announcements on loudspeakers about the approaching cyclonic storm and the evacuation process that could be started on May 25. Fishermen were being asked not to venture out into the sea.
In Kolkata too, the city police and city’s civic body were gearing up for the storm. Separate teams were being formed for each area, generators, pumps and heavy machines to remove uprooted trees were being kept on standby. Leave of all officials have been cancelled and control rooms have been set up ahead of the approaching cyclone.
“We are monitoring the cyclone and by tomorrow the situation about its trajectory would become clearer,” said a meteorological department official in Kolkata.