Cyclone Amphan makes landfall in West Bengal

Extremely severe cyclone Amphan today slammed into the coastal districts of West Bengal, India, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. At the time of filing this story, there was no immediate reports of loss of lives.

Amphan had weakened from a super cyclone to an "extremely severe cyclonic storm" yesterday, causing strong winds and heavy rain in parts of Odisha and Bengal as it advanced towards the Indian coast.

The cyclone still packed a wind speed of 160 to 170 km/h along with gusts of 190 km/h, and made landfall at the Digha coast in East Medinipur district on the Bay of Bengal at around 2.30pm local time, officials said.

The landfall process would continue for four hours, bringing in its wake heavy rain and triggering three to five meter tidal waves, the Indian Met Department said.

The cyclone ripped through coastal districts of West Bengal, unleashing heavy rains and windstorm, blowing away thatched houses, uprooting trees, electric poles and swamping towns and villages, officials said.

The cyclone's impact was felt in Kolkata as medium to heavy rainfall -- several trees and electric poles were uprooted, causing a power cut in vast swathes of Kolkata.

Continuous downpour since the early hours of Thursday led to waterlogging of some streets and low-lying areas of Kolkata as well.

"The cyclone is still on and will continue for a few more hours. But there are still no reports of loss of lives. We are assessing the situation," a senior state official said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was sheltered at state secretariat Nabanna since last night, reviewed the situation and gave necessary instructions to her officials.

West Bengal has so far evacuated more than three lakh people to safer places.

Given the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has distributed more than two lakh masks among the evacuees and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits have been handed out to the State Disaster Relief Force personnel, who have been deployed in vulnerable areas, our New Delhi correspondent reports quoting a senior official.

North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts, which are in the path of the cyclone, also happen to be two Covid-19 hotspot districts in West Bengal, and have a high prevalence of positive cases.

The state has put the coastal districts of East Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas, including the Sundarbans, on high alert, Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan said.