Kolkata, India: Indian authorities on Monday ordered the evacuation of nearly half a million people out of the path of a new cyclone heading towards eastern India just one week after another deadly storm smashed into the west coast.
“Deep Depression over East-central Bay of Bengal intensified into Cyclonic Storm ‘Yaas’ and about 600 km of Port Blair,” the Indian Meteorological Department said in a tweet.
“(The depression) to intensify into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during the next 24 hours and into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm during subsequent 24 hours,” it further said.
Local authorities have ordered the evacuation of coastal regions of West Bengal and Odisha states, as makeshift shelters and stockpiling of foods and necessary aids are being prepared on a war-like footing.
Deep Depression over Eastcentral Bay of Bengal intensified into Cyclonic Storm ‘Yaas’ and about 600 km of Port Blair. To intensify into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during next 24 hours and into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm during subsequent 24 hours. pic.twitter.com/HfREdsMtOL
— India Meteorological Department (@Indiametdept) May 24, 2021
Kolkata, eastern India’s financial hub and the biggest metropolitan is scrambling to make pre-storm preparations.
As per the Indian Meteorology Department, the storm that has been brewing up in the Bay of Bengal is set to enter the coasts from Odhisa, also called Orissa.
Bengal braces up for Cyclone Yaas
According to news agency ANI, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated on Monday that storm Yaas will severely hit 20 districts in the state.
Bengal, last year faced the wrath of super cyclone Aamphan which left dozens dead, displaced thousands, and caused infrastructural damage worth hundreds of millions.
4,000 cyclone shelters are ready, Mamata said, and 10 lakh people would be evacuated.
According to the chief minister, 51 disaster management teams, 1,000 energy restoration teams, and 400 mobile network repair teams have been constituted.
Europe’s #Meteosat8 🛰️ is monitoring newly-formed Tropical Cyclone #Yaas in the Bay of Bengal. The storm is expected to strengthen as it tracks northward, and may reach the equivalent of a Category-2 or -3 Atlantic hurricane by the time it makes landfall.https://t.co/fHDiQ4heeq pic.twitter.com/VgSOEHeZ5B
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) May 24, 2021
Local media reports say the metropolitan area of Kolkata could face wind speeds of 100 kmpl prompting the authorities to enact an alert for very heavy damage.
To evaluate preparations for cyclone Yaas, Home Minister Amit Shah will meet with the Chief Ministers of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and the Lieutenant Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Reviewed the preparedness to tackle the situation arising out of Cyclone Yaas, which is forming in the Bay of Bengal.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) May 24, 2021
Is nature imbalanced?
The cyclones are hitting as India reels from a surge in coronavirus infections that has plunged the healthcare system into crisis and pushed the country’s Covid-19 death toll above 300,000.
Experts say storms off India’s coast are increasing in frequency and intensity as climate change warms ocean waters.
The India Meteorological Department said Cyclone Yaas had formed in the Bay of Bengal and was expected to barrel into West Bengal and Odisha states on Wednesday.
Neighboring Bangladesh has also been put on alert.
Yaas could pack gusts of up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour as a “Very Severe Cyclonic Storm” at the time of landfall, the department said.
Storm surges of up to four meters (13 feet) high were “likely to inundate low-lying coastal areas”, it added.
Evacuations in coastal districts and the Sundarbans mangrove forest, a UNESCO world heritage site, started on Sunday, West Bengal disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan said.
“We have to evacuate nearly half a million people… to schools (and) government offices, which have been turned into cyclone centers to provide shelter to these people,” Khan told AFP.
Odisha’s special relief commissioner, Pradeep Jena, told local media evacuations were being planned, with the state also making arrangements to provide power back-ups to oxygen plants supplying hospitals with Covid-19 patients.
Additional oxygen supplies were also being sent to hospitals with virus patients in areas that could be affected by Yaas.
The military and disaster teams have been deployed to help with the preparations and potential rescue operations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday.
A familiar scene
Last year in May, super cyclone Amphan packed winds up to 200 km, and over 1.1 million people were evacuated from Orissa and Bengal coasts.
Super cyclones are the highest category of tropical storms assigned by the Indian Met Department. Yaas has been said to be a very severe storm.
However, for Kolkatans, the pre-Yaas preparations is a journey down memory lane, despite several reports that have assured the intensity of the storm will most likely not surpass that of Amphans.
There is both panic and understanding among the city dwellers as familiar scenes play out again within a year.
“We don’t know what we’re about to face, and it seems like an uncertainty,” Arunody Dey, a Kolkata resident told We The World Magazine.
” Here in Bengal, although we’re accustomed to tropical storms what we locally call ‘Kalbaisakhi,’ (mango showers) every year in May, the storms in the last two years have been particularly devastating, which is a bit worrying.”
Local residents are somewhat resilient to the constant broadcast in news channels of the storm emerging, having faced the deadly Amphan that took several dozen lives and caused eye-watering damage amid the pandemic.
Last Monday, Cyclone Tauktae — India’s first major tropical storm this season — slammed into the western state of Gujarat, battering several states with torrential downpours and strong winds.
The death toll from Tauktae rose to at least 155 on Monday after more bodies were recovered from an oil rig off the western city of Mumbai and several support vessels, the navy said.
In Sri Lanka, the weather bureau warned the island nation’s fishermen not to venture into the Bay of Bengal.
What is a tropical cyclone?
Low-pressure systems that originate over warm tropical waters and have gale-force winds around the center are known as cyclones. Winds can travel hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the storm’s center.
Because they absorb large amounts of water, they frequently cause severe rains and flooding, resulting in significant loss of life and property damage.
When sustained winds of at least 119 kilometers per hour are reached, they are also known as hurricanes or typhoons, depending on where they originate in the world (74 miles per hour).
According to NASA, tropical cyclones (hurricanes) are the most powerful meteorological phenomena on Earth.
Why is climate change fuelling them?
Ocean soaks up more than 90 percent of the heat generated by greenhouse gases, leading to rising water temperatures.
As cyclones draw their energy from warm waters, the rising temperatures are causing intense storms to become more common, experts say.
“Now what is happening — the Arabian Sea temperatures, the ocean’s surface temperatures — are warming rapidly,” climate scientist Roxy Mathew Koll of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology told AFP.
Rising sea levels could also boost storm surges from cyclones, making them even more deadly and destructive.
With AFP inputs.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF JASON NICHOLLS VIA TWITTER