Amphan Pummels India and Bangladesh
Andreas Klippe Comments May 27, 2020
Are Superstorms the New Normal?
Supercyclone Amphan has left large parts of India and Bangladesh in ruins. Over the course of five days, millions of people were cut off from electricity, water supply, and communication lines. Surveys assess damage cost reaching up to $13.5 billion and counting.
Supercyclone Amphan is the strongest storm system to come from the Bay of Bengal in 20 years. The system was detected as early as May 13, 2020. It was declared as a depression 3 days later, gained momentum and quickly intensified into a storm, but moved slowly. According to experts, the warm waters of the bay helped strengthen the storm.
Amphan was already making its presence felt even before landfall. Several cities and villages were damaged mainly by high winds, impact from debris, and flood. Videos of roofs being blown away quickly made rounds in social media and across the internet. The storm surge was expected to reach up to 3 to 5 meters and flood heights were described to reach up to 1 meter.
The super cyclone made landfall near the India-Bangladesh border on May 20, 2020 where it maintained peak wind speeds comparable to Supertyphoon Yolanda in the Philippines, internationally known as Haiyan in 2013.
In the COVID tunnel
Prior to Amphan, most government efforts were focused on fighting the COVID pandemic. Redirecting resources, making preparations, and organizing relief became difficult. In our last blog, we talked about focusing so much on the COVID pandemic that people are unprepared for the inevitable coming of the rainy season. This unpreparedness for harsh weather conditions will surely add to the economic consequences already brought about by the virus.
Explaining the Damage
Indian and Bangladeshi settlements around the Bay of Bengal are surrounded by channels of water. Kolkata, the capital of the West Bengal State and one of India’s biggest cities was among the most damaged urban areas. It only has an average elevation of 3 meters above sea level which makes it very vulnerable to flooding. It is no surprise that Kolkata Airport has been severely flooded. This means damaged tools, facilities, and machinery. Even after the flood subsides, they will still be dealing with repairs and recovery from the damage.
India and Bangladesh are not alone in this predicament. The rest of East and Southeast Asian countries share the same landscape and profile: low elevation, close proximity to waterways, and poor drainage systems.
Our thoughts are with our friends in India and Bangladesh. Everyone should remember that the time to prepare for floods is now. Even with the COVID pandemic, you can still explore your options for flood protection.
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