Source: World Meteorological Organization
Tropical cyclone Amphan intensified rapidly in the Bay of Bengal to become a “Super Cyclonic Storm” – the equivalent of a strong Category 4/weak Category 5 on the Saffir Simpson scale. It is expected to make landfall on Wednesday 20 May as an Extremely severe cyclonic storm (strong Category 3 equivalent), bringing dangerous winds, storm surge and flooding to coastal areas of West Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
Amphan (pronounced Um-Pun) is on track for densely populated areas at a time when restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating disaster management – and making it more necessary than ever before.
The Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi, which acts as WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre for Tropical Cyclones, warned of a storm surge of about 4-5 meters above astronomical tide that is likely to inundate low-lying areas of West Bengal during landfall, and of about 3-4 meters for Bangladesh.
It said Amphan would make landfall with maximum sustained windspeed of 155-165 km/hour, gusting to 185 km/hour.
Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to review the response preparedness and the evacuation plan presented by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
The tropical cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea has two peaks, around May and around November and, in the past, the basin witnessed huge casualties.
The deadliest tropical cyclone on record, the Great Bhola Cyclone in November 1970, killed at least 300,000 people in modern-day Bangladesh and led to the establishment in 1972, of a body in charge of the regional coordination mechanism for tropical cyclones, the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones
Extensive and coordinated disaster risk reduction campaigns have, in recent years, limited casualties.
For instance, extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani made landfall in Odisha, India on 3 May 2019. Accurate advance forecasts and a huge, well-coordinated disaster risk reduction campaign, including the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, were credited with keeping the death toll to a minimum. This was in contrast to the 1999 Odisha cyclone which caused thousands of deaths in India.