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Satellite image released by NASA shows Cyclone Amphan

over the Bay of Bangal.

A powerful cyclone entered into eastern India on Wednesday (May 20, 2020) following which rain, wind, and waves drove out and millions of people were evacuated from there and neighboring country Bangladesh in an operation complicated by the campaign against the Corona Virus, a global pandemic.

The Indian Meteorological Department said in a bulletin at 3 p.m (0930 GMT) that Cyclone Amphan had begun moving inland, after brewing for days in the Bay of Bengal to become one of the strongest to hit the region in about a decade.

Powerful winds had torn off roofs, uprooted trees, and bent electricity poles, hitting power supplies in some areas of Orisha and West bengal, aid the officials.

The minister for disaster management in Bangladesh Enamur Rahman said about 2.4 million people in the most nearest districts had been shifted to more than 15,000 storm shelters.

Rahman said that it has been challenging to evacuate people while maintaining social distancing and they have doubled the number of the cyclone centers to ensure safe distancing and hygiene.

Bangladeshi officials also said they had moved hundreds of Rohingya refugees who were living in a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, to storm shelters.

Officials claimed that crops could be damaged and large tracts of fertile land washed away. The farmers were made to move their produce and their farm animals to the safer and higher grounds.

“Fortunately, the rice crops has almost been harvested. Still, it could leave a lot of destruction,” Mizanur Rahman Khan, a senior official in the Bangladesh agriculture ministry, said.

An Indian home ministry official said authorities in West Bengal and Odisha had struggled to house thousands of evacuees as shelters were being used as corona virus quarantine centers.

Extra shelters were being built in markets and government buildings with arrangements made for social distancing and masks were being distributed to villagers.

Police in West Bengal said some people were unwilling to go to the shelters because they were afraid of being infected by the coronavirus and many were refusing to leave their livestock.

“We have literally had to force people out of their homes, make them wear masks and put them in government buildings,” said a senior police official in West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata.

One of the resident of Choto Mollakhali island in the Sunderbans area of the Ganges river delta, which is expected to bear the burnt of the storm, said the storm could destroy rice stocks and we are just praying for the night to be over.

India has slightly over 107,000 confirmed cases of the corona virus as of Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University, with a total of 4,970 new cases. Total deaths rose by 134 to 3,303.

India’s death rate is less than that of some other big countries, with 3 percent, compared with about 6 percent for the United States, where some 89,000 people have died, and 14 percent for Britain.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s infection count increased by 1,251 on Wednesday. In total, the country has recorded 25,121 confirmed cases of infections, according to Johns Hopkins.

Tackling both disasters at the same time would be a challenge for both the governments, especially if they try to maintain social distancing according to the norms of the WHO in packed evacuation centers and emergency shelters.

Rohingyas in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Cyclone Amphan could also impact the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar where millions of  Rohingya refugees live after coming from the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

Bangladesh authorities made the Rohingyas refugees who were living in the flood-prone area of Bay of Bengal to move to the storm shelters and higher grounds for their safety.

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the camp last week and with the storm now approaching, the two disasters could make a devastating combination and affect a larger part of livelinhood.

One human rights advocate said that the virus outbreak in the camp would be a “nightmare scenario.”

Daniel P. Sullivan, who works for the U.S.- based organisation Refugees International said that the  underlying health conditions among refugees and the deteriorating sanitary conditions are sure to come with the looming monsoon and flooding season make it a witch brew of conditions in which the virus is sure to thrive.

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