Authorities on India’s east coast began moving more than a million people to safety on Tuesday as a “severe” Cyclone Yaas neared, days after deadly cyclone hit the west coast.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Cyclone Yaas was powering across the Bay of Bengal and would batter the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, and also Bangladesh, on Wednesday. “It is likely to cause large-scale damage,” IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra told Reuters by telephone.
Officials began moving people in cars and boats from low-lying coastal areas to shelters at government buildings, schools, and other sturdy structures. Pregnant women and children were sent to government hospitals, as fishermen shifted boats to safety inland.
In Odisha’s Balasore district, close to where the cyclone is expected to make landfall, volunteers broadcast alerts over megaphones, urging people to move. “Evacuation is always a challenge. In general, there is a reluctance this time we have COVID,” said Vishal Kumar Dev, an official overseeing relief efforts in Balasore.
“Often people say ‘we’ll go only when the rain increases’. We’re convincing them.” Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common at this time of year, and often roar ashore, causing deaths and destruction in coastal areas of both India and Bangladesh.
Last week, Cyclone Tauktae the most powerful cyclone to hit India’s west cost in more than two decades killed more than 150 people. A devastating second wave of coronavirus infections added to the difficulty of preparing for the storm.
Officials in Odisha said they were conducting antigen tests, and temperature checks, and isolating people with COVID-19 symptoms.