May 18 (UPI) — More than 1 million people at the India-Bangladesh border are preparing to evacuate before Super Cyclone Amphan, which is predicted to make landfall Wednesday evening.
The Indian Meteorological Department said Amphan, which developed in the Bay of Bengal, will reach wind speeds Monday of 167 miles per hour, and will arrive in the northeastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal and on the coast of Bangladesh, near the Ganges River Delta.
The cyclone is equivalent to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.
The Odisha government Monday directed emergency personnel to evacuate people in low-lying areas, as well as those who live in housing with thatched, asbestos, tile or sloped roofs. They will be taken to cyclone shelters or other emergency concrete buildings.
Meteorologists predicted Monday that the storm will lose some intensity as it hits land, but could cause storm surges as high as 30 feet.
SN Pradhan, director general of the Indian National Disaster Response Force, said that on top of the coronavirus epidemic, the cyclone presented a “dual challenge” to safely house evacuees while taking steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Many migrant workers returning to Odisha and West Bengal for the national pandemic lockdown have been housed in temporary quarantine centers which are now in the path of the cyclone.
“I pray for everyone’s safety and assure all possible support from the Central Government,” tweeted Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, who met Monday with disaster response force members to finalize a plan.
In Bangladesh, surges of high winds, rain and flooding from the cyclone are expected to strike the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement, where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees have gathered in primitive conditions after fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
Amphan is the first super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, when a super storm hit the Orissa coast, killing more than 9,000 people.