PM Modi visits West Bengal, Odisha on Friday . . .
Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi visited the states of West Bengal and Odisha on Friday, two days after they were struck by Cyclone Amphan, which killed at least 80 in India. In response to calls for help from the central government, Modi announced a relief fund of C$185 million for restoration work in West Bengal. Critics however point out that the relief fund is not enough and is only expected to address 1 per cent of the losses caused by the cyclone, according to state government estimates. Concurrently, several protests took place Friday in Kolkata and other parts of the state to demand relief, restoration of electricity and drinking water. Notably, Modi ignored the request from civilians and the Chief Minister of West Bengal to declare the event a ‘national disaster’ which could enable the distribution of more relief funds.
‘Fiercest cyclone to hit the state in over 100 years’ . . .
Cyclone Amphan struck the coast of Bangladesh and India on Wednesday, flash flooding areas up to 25 km inland, ravaging homes and farmland, and disrupting communication and electricity services. In Bangladesh alone, the UN estimates that the homes of 500,000 people may have been reduced to debris and that 10 million people have been affected. In West Bengal, record agricultural losses are expected as farmland in two-thirds of the state’s districts was ravaged. Local authorities in affected areas are struggling to restore power, telecom networks, and road connectivity due to an acute shortage of workers and funds as they also battle with COVID-19.
Millions evacuated despite national lockdown . . .
Fortunately, more than 3 million residents of coastal regions in India and Bangladesh were evacuated before the storm. The quick government response, rendered possible by improved weather forecasting, is estimated to have saved thousands of lives. A similar super cyclone hit the state of Odisha in 1999, and killed 10,000 people. In comparison, 95 people were killed by Cyclone Anpham, although more deaths are expected to be confirmed in the coming days. The displacement has also forced people to give up social distancing measures to shelter, and the combined effect of the pandemic with the cyclone will be seen in the coming weeks as people leave crowded shelters and work together to rebuild their communities. To make matters worse, the number of new COVID-19 cases hit new highs in both India (6,198) and Bangladesh (1,773) on Thursday.
- Al Jazeera: Cyclone Amphan: India, Bangladesh begin clean-up operation
- Foreign Policy: First the pandemic. Then a killer cyclone.
- Hindustan Times: PM Modi announces Rs 1,000 cr immediate relief for Cyclone Amphan-hit Bengal