India braces for another giant storm, 2m people evacuated
A powerful cyclone headed for eastern India on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of nearly 2 million people just a week after another huge storm killed at least 155 on the west coast.
Cyclone Yaas in the Bay of Bengal is expected to slam into West Bengal and Odisha states around midday today, the India Meteorological Department said, and could bring winds of up to 165 kilometers per hour.
Experts say the warming of ocean waters due to climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of such storms.
Nearly 2 million people living along India's east coast are being moved to shelters, officials said yesterday, and the storm has also disrupted efforts to combat the country's devastating COVID-19 outbreak.
"This cyclone is a terrible blow for many people in coastal districts whose families have been struck down by COVID-19 infections and deaths," West Bengal Sundarbans development minister Bankim Chandra Hazra said.
"Nearly half a million people are being evacuated from their homes in the (West Bengal) coastal region and it's a big challenge to provide them shelter (while) maintaining social distancing."
Some vaccination centers in districts under threat as well as the capital Kolkata would suspend operations, officials said, and efforts were under way to ensure the supply of oxygen and medicines to hospitals.
Some 1.4 million people were moved away from coastal districts in neighboring Odisha, with thousands of disaster and relief personnel deployed, local media reported.
The state's special relief commissioner, Pradeep Jena, said arrangements were being made to maintain social distancing in shelters, with face masks and sanitizers supplied.