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Cyclone Amphan

AmphanCyclonic storm icon.png
Current storm status
Cyclonic storm (IMD)
Current storm status
Tropical storm (1-min mean)
Amphan 2020-05-20 0420Z.jpg
Satellite image
JTWC IO0120.gif
Forecast map
As of:21:00 UTC, 20 May
Location:24°12′N 89°00′E / 24.2°N 89.0°E / 24.2; 89.0 (Amphan)
About 35 km (22 mi) NE of Sagar Island
About 70 km (43 mi) S of Kolkata
About 95 km (59 mi) ENE of Digha
About 185 km (115 mi) WSW of Khepupara
Sustained winds:45 knots (85 km/h; 50 mph) (3-min mean)
40 knots (75 km/h; 45 mph) (1-min mean)
gusting to 55 knots (100 km/h; 65 mph)
Pressure:988 hPa (29.18 inHg)
Movement:NNE at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)
See latest official information.

Super Cyclonic Storm Amphan (/ˈʌmpʌn/) is currently a weakening tropical cyclone over East India, which also impacted Bangladesh.[1] It is the first tropical cyclone of the 2020 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. Amphan is the first super cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 Odisha cyclone.[2][3]

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

During 13 May, an area of low pressure developed over the southeastern Bay of Bengal about 1020 km (635 mi) to the southeast of Visakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.[4][5] The area of low pressure was located within a favourable environment for further development with good equatorward outflow, warm sea surface temperatures and low vertical windshear.[5] Over the next couple of days, the system became more marked as it gradually consolidated further, with bands of deep atmospheric convection wrapping into the system's low level circulation center.[6][7] During 16 May, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) reported that the area of low pressure had developed into a depression and designated it as BOB 01, while it was located about 1,100 km (685 mi) to the south of Paradip in the Indian state of Odisha.[8]

Moving northwards, the depression continually organised and became a cyclonic storm a few hours later, receiving the name Amphan. The system was unable to strengthen further as moderate wind shear situated to the east was constantly offsetting the eastern side of the system's convection, making it unsymmetrical.[9] On 17 May, conditions for significant intensification became more likely as the southern shear (which had previously restricted any sort of intensification) began to clear, and the shear situated to the north moved further inland. Subsequently, Amphan became a severe cyclonic storm, and then began to undergo explosive intensification, according to the JTWC, with 1-minute sustained winds increasing from 75 knots (140 km/h; 85 mph) at 18:00 UTC to 115 knots (215 km/h; 130 mph) – equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale – in only six hours.[10] Furthermore, the IMD upgraded Amphan to an extremely severe tropical cyclone on the IMD cyclone intensity scale.[11] At this point, Amphan was an expansive system, with cloudtops extending wider than 600 nautical miles (690 mi; 1,111 km) with super-dense, deep and symmetrical central convection. It also maintained a sharply-outlined 10 nautical mile-wide eye.[12]

Cyclone Amphan near peak intensity on 18 May 2020.

Early on 18 May, microwave imagery depicted that an eyewall replacement cycle was taking place with the presence of two distinct concentric eyewalls, typical for very intense cyclones.[13] Through the day, Amphan struggled to complete its eyewall replacement cycle and therefore left it vulnerable to both wind shear and dry air; and dry air intrusion began occurring late on 18 May, with the northwestern portion of the eyewall began to collapse as a result of dry air intrusion. Additionally, increasing wind shear due to monsoonal movements meant that the system's eastern quadrant was continually being degraded, therefore making it become less symmetric.[14] At around 5:30 p.m. IST (12:00 UTC), Amphan made landfall near Bakkhali, West Bengal with winds of 155 km/h (100 mph).[15] As it moved further inland, it rapidly weakened and just six hours after landfall, the JTWC downgraded it to a Category 1-equivalent cyclone and issued its final warning on the system as it became disorganized.[16]

Current storm status

As of 6:00 a.m. BST 21 May (21:00 UTC 20 May), Cyclonic Storm Amphan is located within 20 nautical miles of 24°12′N 89°00′E / 24.2°N 89.0°E / 24.2; 89.0 (Amphan), about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Sagar Island, West Bengal, 43 miles (70 km) south of Kolkata, West Bengal, 59 miles (95 km) ENE of Digha, West Bengal, and 115 miles (185 km) west-southwest of Khepupara, Bangladesh. Maximum 3-minute winds are at 45 knots (50 mph; 85 km/h), while 1-minute sustained winds are at 40 knots (45 mph; 75 km/h)[17], with gusts up to 55 knots (65 mph; 100 km/h). The minimum barometric pressure is 988 mbar (29.18 inHg), and the system is moving north-northeast at 15 knots (17 mph; 28 km/h).[18]

Watches and warnings

Cyclone Warning
Cyclonic storm conditions
expected within 24 hours.

Preparations

Satellite image of a newly-formed Amphan
Amphan shortly after its designation as a tropical depression on May 16

Amphan's forecast track placed 38.9 million people in India and Bangladesh at risk of exposure to the storm's winds, according to the US Pacific Disaster Center.[19] The formation of the precursor low-pressure system prompted the IMD to issue a cyclonic alert for India's coastline along the Bay of Bengal, advising fishermen not to sail to susceptible locations in the Bay of Bengal from May 15–18.[20] Fishermen from Sri Lanka were also advised by the national government to return to or remain in the country,[21] and additional maritime traffic from Singapore and other countries were advised to remain clear of Amphan's vicinity.[22] Ships and aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard directed fishing boats to harbour in coordination with the administrations and fisheries departments of Odisha and West Bengal.[23] The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Chennai activated an International Safety Net for the Bay of Bengal.[22] Ports were cleared and their operations suspended along the Bay of Bengal, while ferry service along major routes in Bangladesh was suspended by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation.[24][25] Bangladeshi ports suspended the loading and unloading of goods onboard ships.[26] Smaller vessels in the harbour at Chittagong were moved to safety upstream the Karnaphuli River.[27] Ships were ordered out of some ports, such as the port of Paradip, to avoid damage.[28] Public works departments were called upon by the government of Odisha to ensure infrastructure resiliency;[29] crews and backup systems for electricity and telecommunications were deployed to meet these needs,[30] establishing helplines for emergency response.[31] Rail and vehicular traffic in Odisha and West Bengal was halted or rerouted.[32] The Shramik train service for migrant workers was halted in both states for up to four days, with service expected to be curtailed in the storm's aftermath.[33][34][35][36] AC Express special trains operating routes between New Delhi and Bhubaneswar were diverted to avoid the cyclone's effects.[37] Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata was closed until May 21, with planes evacuating or chocked and the airport terminal roof foritifed to minimize damage.[38][39]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik and other officials on May 18 to review preparations and evacuation plans.[40][41] Teams from the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were pre-positioned across districts in Odisha and West Bengal on May 17 to assist in preparations for Amphan and render aid where necessary,[29][42][43] with additional units placed on standby;[44] these units could be readily airlifted to affected areas onboard Indian Air Force transport aircraft.[45] The National Disaster Management Authority advised that these crews and other first responders would also need personal protective equipment and N95 masks due to the ongoing pandemic.[46] A diving team from the Indian Navy was sent to Kolkata to aid relief efforts.[47]

The Bangladesh Cyclone Preparedness Programme and National Disaster Response Coordination Group convened on May 18 to outline preparations for Amphan.[48] Several non-governmental agencies coordinated with the Cyclone Preparedness Programme to support Rohingya refugees at camps in Cox's Bazar during Amphan.[49] The Department of Public Health Engineering distributed sanitation supplies and set up 15 water treatment plants.[50] Health services during the storm were reinforced by 1,933 medical teams distributed around Bangladesh.[51] Fifteen thousand volunteers and 284 medical teams were prepared to render aid around Chittagong.[27] According to Inter-Services Public Relations, 145 disaster management teams from the Bangladesh Armed Forces were placed on standby with special equipment. The Bangladesh Army deployed 71 medical teams and arranged 18,400 packets and relief materials in preparation for Amphan's aftermath. Twenty-five ships were dispatched by the Bangladesh Navy to handle emergency, rescue, and relief operations, with aerial support from the Bangladesh Air Force.[52] The Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh advised coastal farmers to harvest all mature paddy fields to mitigate the estimated loss of 12 percent of crop yield.[53] Seven thousand domestic animals were also moved to shelter under the direction of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.[54]

An IMD yellow alert was active for 13 of Kerala's 14 districts on May 18,[55] while an orange alert was issued by the agency for West Bengal, anticipating extensive damage in six districts.[56] The Bangladesh Meteorological Department issued cyclone danger signal #10, their highest warning, at the Port of Mongla and the Port of Payra on May 20, signifying "great danger" due to Amphan with winds expected to exceed 89 km/h (55 mph). Signal #10 was also issued for eleven coastal districts, in addition to offshore islands and islands within the Ganges Delta.[57] Coastal provinces of Thailand along the Andaman Sea were warned by the Thai Meteorological Department of the threat of heavy rain on May 19.[58] Storm alerts issued by the Thai Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation encompassed 62 provinces, including Bangkok,[59] while warnings for flash floods, high waves, and landslides were issued for 14 provinces in southern Thailand.[60] Flood and landslide warnings were issued by the Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka on May 19. Boats, helicopters, and crews were stationed by the Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Navy throughout the island to bolster emergency response.[61]

Evacuations

Infrared satellite animation of the cyclone
Amphan explosively intensifying on May 17

The government of Odisha directed the magistrates of four districts on May 15 to establish shelter homes for possible evacuees.[62] Odisha Chief Secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy initially identified 403 possible cyclone shelters in areas potentially impacted by Amphan, though 105 served as temporary medical centres for quarantines associated with the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic.[29] Shelters could only be filled to one-third capacity to maintain social distancing guidelines due to the pandemic.[46][63] Social distancing restrictions in West Bengal reduced evacuation capacity in shelters from 500,000 people to 200,000 people.[64] Additional buildings were identified for possible use as temporary shelters to augment evacuation capacity.[65] The Kolkata Municipal Corporation located schools and community centres that could be used as shelters.[66] At least 1,704 shelters were ultimately established in Odisha.[67] Pandemic constraints on shelters in Bangladesh prompted deputy commissioners in 19 coastal districts to seize educational institutions and mosques for use as shelters.[68][69] More than 12,000 shelters were opened across Bangladesh, supplied with food and emergency cash from the Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief and yielding capacity for 5.19 million evacuees.[70][71] There were 5,767 more shelters in Bangladesh for Amphan than for Cyclone Bulbul, which struck the country in November 2019, due in part to social distancing restrictions.[72]

Approximately 4.2 million people were evacuated in coastal India and Bangladesh, with roughly 2 million from India and 2.2 million from Bangladesh. Most of the evacuations in Inda occurred in West Bengal.[73][74] Over a million people were expected to evacuate from areas near the Bangladesh–India border.[75] Around 4,000 personnel from the the SDRF oversaw evacuations in India.[76] Evacuations began on May 17 in Jagatsinghpur, beginning with the elderly and pregnant living in thatched homes.[77] Magistrates were directed to begin evacuating residents from vulnerable homes and low-lying areas in Odisha the following day.[78] The Odia government took a more targeted evacuation approach for Amphan than in previous storms where more widespread evacuations were utilized.[79] Odisha had shelter capacity for up 1.1 million evacuees, though only 10 percent was expected to be used. The government of West Bengal planned to evacuate 200,000 people from their homes by May 18;[80] nearly 300,000 people evacuated in total from the state, including 200,000 from North 24 Parganas district and more than 40,000 from Sagar Island.[81][82][22] The NDRF reported that over 500,000 people evacuated from Odisha and West Bengal.[83] Officials farther inland in Dhanbad and Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand, were also instructed to move people from susceptible housing to safety.[84] Two million people were expected to evacuate from low-lying areas of Bangladesh on May 19.[85] Trawlers were used to evacuate thousands from the sediment islands in the Ganges Delta to the Bangladeshi mainland.[86] Approximately 50,000 people evacuated from the islands of the Sunderbans.[63]

Impact

Fatalities by country
Country Fatalities Ref.
Bangladesh 7 [87]
India 14 [88][89]
Sri Lanka 4 [90][91]
Total 25

Sri Lanka

The cyclone produced heavy rainfall and strong winds in Sri Lanka while intensifying east of the island, affecting some 2,000 people and triggering floods and landslides.[92][93] Minor flooding occurred along the banks of the Kalu Ganga.[90] Two people were killed as a result of these rains in Ratnapura District, with one killed by a landslide and another by a fallen tree. Landslide-related injuries hospitalized other residents in the area.[61] Two people were killed in Kegalle, where 214 mm (8.4 in) of rain fell in 24 hours.[91] Flash floods in Kottampitiya and Pelmadulla prompted the evacuation of 60 people from homes susceptible to a possible landslide.[61] Over 500 homes were damaged by Amphan,[93] of which 145 were in Polonnaruwa.[94]

India

A satellite image of Cyclone Amphan several hours before landfall in Eastern India on 20 May.

Eastern India

West Bengal, the epicenter of the cyclone's landfall, saw the most widespread damage from Amphan. The storm was considered the strongest to hit the region in over a decade.[89] An estimated storm surge of 5 m (16 ft) inundated a wide swath of coastal communities and communications were severed. The greatest inundations were expected in the Sundarbans, where flooding could extend 15 km (9.3 mi) inland.[95] Wind gusts along coastal areas were measured up to 150–160 km/h (93–99 mph).[89] In Kolkata, damaging winds up to 112 km/h (70 mph) overturned vehicles and snapped trees.[89][95] Thousands of mud homes were damaged in the neighboring Hooghly district.[95] At least 12 people died in West Bengal.[88] Neighboring Odisha saw significant effects, with wind gusts reaching 106 km/h (66 mph) and rainfall up to 197.1 mm (7.76 in) in Paradip.[96] Sixty-five electrical substations were affected, leaving 1.9 million without power. Two people died in Odisha, one due to drowning and the other from a collapsed wall.[89]

Southern India

Rains and strong winds from Amphan swept across many districts in Kerala beginning on May 16.[97] Thunderstorms associated with Amphan caused severe coastal erosion in the Valiyathura suburb of Thiruvananthapuram, damaging roads and destroying homes and threatening to displace over a hundred families from their homes.[98] Strong winds inflicted severe damage in Kottayam district, especially in Vaikom taluk, where homes and temples were impacted and trees and electric poles were downed.[99] The tiled roof of the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple was damaged by these winds. A 0.147 crore (US$20,000) damage toll resulted from the destruction of 16 homes and the partial damage of 313 homes.[100] A high school used as a homeless shelter collapsed, causing minor injuries.[99]

Heavy winds damaged at least 100 boats anchored in the Ramanathapuram district.[101] Coastal erosion from rough seas generated by Amphan led to the collapse of three houses at Bommayarpalayam in Viluppuram district.[102] Roughly 35 acres of banana crops around Gandarvakottai and Aranthangi were destroyed.[103]

In Sooradapeta, near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, rough seas destroyed 35 homes and damaged several others.[104]

Bangladesh

Damaging effects began in Bangladesh prior to the landfall of Amphan as coastal water levels rose. Collapsed embankments led to the inundation of 17 villages across Galachipa, Kalapara, and Rangabali.[87] Storm surge destroyed at least 500 homes on an island within the Noakhali District.[95]

At least seven people died in storm-related incidents, including the Cyclone Preparedness Programme leader Shah Alam who drowned when his boat capsized.[87]

See also

References

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