Cyclone Amphan made landfall and roared into West Bengal on Wednesday, with winds gusting up to 190 kmph and heavy rain having been reported in the affected regions.
At least two people have died due to the cyclone in India, officials told PTI.
After making landfall at 2.30 pm between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya island in Bangladesh, Cyclone Amphan raged through the coastal areas, flattening fragile dwellings, uprooting trees and electric poles.
At least 6.58 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and Odisha before the cyclone struck the coastal areas in the state. In Bangladesh, at least 10 lakh people have been evacuated, reports said.
Cyclone Amphan has been forecast as the worst such event since the 1999 super cyclone in Odisha, which had left about 10,000 people dead.
"The intensity of the cyclone near its centre as the landfall process started was recorded at 160-170 kmph, gusting to 190 kmph," the weather department said.
Two women were killed in Howrah district and Minakhan area of North 24 Parganas district due to uprooting of trees, an official said.
Visuals on ANI showed waterlogged streets and uprooted trees in Kolkata as the cyclone passed through West Bengal's capital.
West Bengal: Streets in Kolkata waterlogged, trees uprooted and houses damaged due to strong winds and heavy rain as #Amphan crossed West Bengal-Bangladesh coast between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) across Sunderbans, between 1530 and 1730 hrs today. pic.twitter.com/obYlwiW9TO
— ANI (@ANI) May 20, 2020
TV footage showed gigantic tidal waves crashing into a seawall in Digha, close to the landfall site.
Winds with speeds up to 160-170 kmph pound coastal regions
Thick sheets of rain blurred the vast coastline in the two states and surging waters engulfed mud-and-thatch houses, flattening them in a trice.
Heavy machinery was moved in to clear the roads blocked by falling trees in affected areas.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General Mrityunjay Mohapatra, who jointly addressed the media with NDRF Director General SN Pradhan, said gale-strength winds speeding at 160-170 kmph were pounding South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts and could be gusting up to 185 kmph.
He said the eye of the cyclone had touched the land, triggering copious rain in the three districts. The eye of the storm itself was 30 kilometres in diameter, he said.
Mohapatra said that the intensity of the rain and winds accompanying it could deceptively look like ebbing away briefly, but will surge afresh once the rear sector of the storm has reached the landmass.
Reports arriving in Kolkata from North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore said roofs of thatched houses were blown away, and twisted electric poles and broken and uprooted trees bore testimony to the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan.
The Indian Express reported that in Kolkata, trees were uprooted in several areas including New Alipore, Central Avenue, SN Banerjee Road, Bidhan Sarani, Shakespeare Sarani, Ballygunge, Maidan, Hastings, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Gariahat and others. Also, a two-storey house collapsed in the Entally area.
In Odisha, intense rainfall was recorded in several areas of Puri, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Ganjam, Ganjam, Bhadrak and Balasore districts since Tuesday.
Relief, rescue measures underway
All 20 units of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) stationed in Odisha have been deployed in the state, while as many units have been pressed into service in West Bengal for relief and rescue efforts in the wake of Cyclone Amphan, Pradhan said on Wednesday.
Over five lakh people have been evacuated in West Bengal while over 1.58 lakh have been taken to safety in Odisha, Pradhan said quoting data provided by the state governments.
Addressing the press conference, Pradhan also said they are keeping a close watch on the "fast transforming" situation and that 20 teams have been deployed in West Bengal, including one team for urban areas of Kolkata, while another unit has been kept in reserve.
The NDRF DG also said that 24 teams from six battalions across the country are on standby.
"They are ready and can be airlifted within 15 minutes. They may not be necessarily needed during the cyclone, but during relief and restoration process," he said.
He also said the NDRF Headquarters and local commandants are working in coordination with the respective state authorities.
"All teams have wireless and satellite communications. We are not dependent on any communication system.
"It is another form of new normal, we have to handle disasters be it cyclone or floods during upcoming monsoon season while also considering COVID-19. In view of the prevailing COVID-19 scenario, all teams are equipped with PPE," he said.
"Based on experiences during Cyclone FANI, all the teams are equipped with tree cutters/ pole cutters for post landfall restoration, if the need arises," he said.
Bangladesh evacuates about 10 lakh people
Around 10 lakh people have been evacuated from Bangladesh's coastal region in the run-up to Cyclone Amphan, which is expected to hit the country's coast later on Wednesday.
According to a special bulletin from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department's Storm Warning Center, the coastal districts of Noakhali, Feni, Chittagong, Khulna, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Barguna, Patuakhali and Cox's Bazar, as also offshore islands and chars, will come under great danger.
The water in Bishkhali, Buriswar, and Balesh rivers was flowing 33 centimetres above the danger level in Barguna district as of Wednesday at 11 am, reports said.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 21, 2020 07:24:39 IST