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Natural disasters

Cyclone forces mass evacuation from India and Bangladesh coasts

First superstorm in 20 years adds to challenges amid COVID-19 pandemic

The superstorm Amphan is expected to passes through Kolkata with winds off up to 120 kph.   © Getty Images

NEW DELHI -- India and Bangladesh evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from coastal regions as a major cyclone is expected to hit border areas on Wednesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amphan, the first superstorm in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, is due to make landfall later in the day with possible maximum sustained wind speeds of 165 kph with gusts up to 185 kph.

The storm that hit the eastern Indian state of Odisha two decades ago killed nearly 10,000 people.

Describing it as an "extremely severe cyclonic storm," India's National Disaster Response Force chief S.N. Pradhan said on Tuesday that this is the first time they were dealing with two disasters at once. "It is a cyclone in the time of COVID, [posing] a dual challenge," he said.

The cyclone comes as neighbors India and Bangladesh struggle to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, with confirmed cases in the two countries having passed 106,000 and 25,000, respectively.

By Tuesday evening, the Indian state of West Bengal had evacuated 300,000 people from coastal areas while Odisha had reportedly readied plans to move 1.1 million to safer places. In Bangladesh, over 240,000 people were being ushered out of vulnerable areas.

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