Bhubaneswar, INDIA – While the world struggled with covid-19, things turned even worse for India after a recent devastating cyclone struck in the midst of the pandemic.
Cyclone Amphan formed in mid-May in the Bay of Bengal. It eventually made landfall in West Bengal, India on May 20.
The effect of the cyclone, which claimed lives and ruined tens of thousands of homes in India and Bangladesh with high winds and flooding, according to reports by the BBC.
Already under threat from rising cases of covid-19, lives and livelihoods in some of India’s most economically disadvantaged regions became even more endangered with the arrival of the category 5 storm.
According to India Today, the cyclone destroyed homes and farms, ripping through the mangrove forests of the Sundarban, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Sundarban is famous for its white tiger population and had been a fertile spot for rice growing – until Amphan’s saltwater floods.
“Sundarban is not pretty but almost destroyed,” said Anaranya Basu, a resident of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.
In India, especially in the eastern zone, most of the coastal regions are rural or small towns. That is why Amphan’s cyclonic waves and winds were capable of such demolition, as most of the houses in the affected areas are Kucha houses made of thatched roof and mud.
Even evacuating people – which involves mass gatherings and traveling – was risky because of the pandemic.
Cyclone Amphan did an excessive amount of damage especially to rural regions as it destroyed farming lands and fishing nets on its way.
The cyclone claimed more than 90 lives and caused more than $13 billion USD, according to CNN.
According to Basu, expected government relief for people in the hardest hit areas is stalled, at best.
“All things got wasted and the government is doing their job slowly,” said Basu, who predicted that it is going to take years for the government to bring everything back to normal in the rural areas.
With thousands of people displaced, it is bound to make the condition of India worse to ease the struggle of its citizen while keeping covid-19 in check at the same time.
Destruction so vast cannot be measured, it can only be suffered through, and survival isn’t a choice, but a necessity.
With covid-19 delaying farming and halting the labours’ daily wage for the last two or three months, the cyclone has destroyed their homes and livelihoods, possibly for years to come.
Now it’s up to India to manage its shattered economy while pulling its people out of their miserable living conditions brought on by the pandemic and the cyclone.
Purnima Priyadarsini is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.