Cyclone Yaas: 1 Million Evacuated as Storm Nears Covid-Ravaged India

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    Cyclone Yaas is set to slam into India early on Wednesday, the second in less than two weeks, with authorities evacuating more than one million people at a time when the nation is facing the world’s worst outbreak of Covid-19.

    Yaas, equivalent to a category 3 hurricane, will cause heavy rains in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha, with wind speeds as high as 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. Sea levels may increase four meters above regular tides and inundate low-lying areas, it said.

    West Bengal has so far shifted about 900,000 people to various relief centers, Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister told reporters Tuesday. About 370,000 people, including state government officials, police, army officers, rehabilitation workers and volunteers, are working together to handle the situation, she said.

    More than 200,000 people have already been moved from coastal areas of Odisha to safer places and the operation is still continuing, Pradeep Jena, the state’s additional chief secretary said in a text message. Sealing and fortification of doors and windows in hospitals and Covid-19 health facilities are also being done, he said. The government has identified more than 6,500 pregnant women with delivery dates before June 1 and is moving them to hospitals as a priority.

    The latest storm follows a severe cyclone that hit the west coast last week — the worst in over two decades in the western state of Gujarat — killing dozens after a barge sank in the sea. The eastern region was hit by a cyclone in May 2020 with similar wind speeds, while another one in 2019 prompted authorities to evacuate millions of people.

    The timing of the storm poses several challenges for already stressed authorities in the country, which is battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The infections have strained India’s health system and overwhelmed crematoriums and hospitals. They have also spread to rural areas, where about 70% of the nation’s 1.3 billion people live.

    Federal Home Minister Amit Shah asked the state governments to ensure adequate power backup for hospitals, laboratories, vaccine cold stores and other medical facilities, the ministry said in a statement.

    Ports, refineries and plants were on alert. Indian Oil Corp., the biggest refiner, has stopped unloading crude oil at Paradip in Odisha, according to a spokesman.

    Ongoing construction activities by oil and gas companies in the region have been temporarily suspended, according to Indian Oil. All ships carrying crude oil and other related products have been asked to keep a safe distance from the cyclone’s path, it said in a statement, adding that efforts are underway to ensure smooth supply of liquid medical oxygen from the eastern parts to the rest of the country.

    The weather department advised fishermen to suspend operations in the area and return immediately to the coast. The storm could damage houses and roads, disrupt movement of trains and disrupt power and telecommunication services, it said in a statement.

    In neighboring Bangladesh, the government has readied three times more storm shelters than are usually needed to accommodate people evacuated from coastal areas, said Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management. But the country sees no major damage from the cyclone as it’s likely to move toward India’s Odisha, he said.

    Oil explorers in the Bay of Bengal have been asked to take all precautions to maintain safe operations, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons said in a Twitter post. Oil and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said as a precautionary measure all major oil and steel industrial units along the east coast will operate with minimum manpower for the next two to three days.

    Authorities are cautious this time after a fatal accident last week. The Indian Navy recovered 70 bodies after a barge and a tug boat, working for state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp., sank following cyclone Tauktae that hit the west coast on May 17. The navy rescued 188 people, but some are still missing.

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    In This Story: Bangladesh

    Bangladesh, officially the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the eighth-most populous country in the world, with a population exceeding 162 million people.

    Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

    Dhaka, the capital and largest city, is the nation’s economic, political, and cultural hub. Chittagong, the largest seaport, is the second-largest city.

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    In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure and typically bring winds, rain, high waves and storm surges to the areas they pass.

    In the Atlantic and the northeastern Pacific oceans, a tropical cyclone is generally referred to as a hurricane (from the name of the ancient Central American deity of wind, Huracan), in the Indian and south Pacific oceans it is called a cyclone, and in the northwestern Pacific it is called a typhoon.

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    India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. New Delhi is the capital.

    It has an exceptionally diverse population, with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and other religions speaking over 21 recognised languages.

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