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Home >News >India >Amphan grows to Category 5 in record 18 hours; landfall likely today

NEW DELHI : Super cyclone Amphan has evolved into one of the strongest storms over the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 Odisha Cyclone, as it approaches the West Bengal coast to make landfall early on Wednesday evening.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone has intensified from Category 1 to a Category 5 cyclone in a record time of about 18 hours.

“As a super cyclone it had associated wind speed of 200-240kmph over the sea, but when it makes landfall over West Bengal coast on Wednesday, the wind speed will be 155-165kmph gusting up to 185kmph. This can be disastrous for the region, and large-scale damage can be expected," said M. Mohapatra, director general of meteorology, IMD.

The cyclone will hit the eastern coast between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) near the Sunderbans as a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’. The forecast on Tuesday evening suggests, the cyclone has already lost some intensity and become an “extremely severe cyclonic storm’.

The North and South 24 Parganas districts, East Medinipur, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata in West Bengal are likely to witness maximum damage. IMD has predicted extremely heavy rainfall coupled with high winds in the region. The coastal areas could be inundated with storm surges of 4-5 metres above the astronomical tides.

As many as 15 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been positioned in Odisha, and 19 teams in West Bengal. Seven teams are on standby. “This time we are facing two disasters at the same time—covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan. We have to be careful and keep social distancing into consideration, while planning relief operations. Relief shelters that could earlier house 1,000 persons, can now probably be allowed to accommodate just 500," said NDRF chief Satya Narayan Pradhan.

Scientists studying the development of the cyclone said the storm was fuelled by warm ocean temperatures, which helped its intensification in the early and mature stages. “Tropical cyclones draw their energy from the ocean surface and these temperatures can supercharge a cyclone, leading to its rapid intensification," said Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.

The buoys installed by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information (INCOIS) and National Institute of Ocean Technology in the Bay of Bengal recorded surface temperatures of 32-34°C, before the cyclone. “There is a potential uncertainty of 1°C, but still we have never seen such high values. The surface temperatures are high probably because it is riding on the global warming trends," Koll added.

Scientists said climate change could possibly make the strongest cyclones even more powerful in the near future. “Last year set several new records for Indian Ocean cyclones. We know that the Indian Ocean is warming, and we know that warm ocean water is the first, and perhaps the key ingredient for the formation of tropical cyclones, so the system is primed for more storms," said Simon Wang, Professor of Climate, Utah State University.

Shaswati Das contributed to this story.

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