Cyclone Amphan had West Bengal and Odisha bracing for the Bay of Bengal’s fiercest air-swirler this century after it intensified to pack wind speeds of 270kmph. By the time it made landfall on Wednesday, it was gusting at about 160kmph, slower but still whipping these states’ coastal regions with its fury. Teams of the National Disaster Response Force had already moved about 500,000 people to shelters in West Bengal, while another 100,000 had been evacuated in Odisha. That the cyclone would leave a trail of destruction was a foregone conclusion. It’s the human cost that the country has sought to minimize.
It’s all the more tragic that Amphan has struck at a time that coronavirus is roiling India. With people crammed into makeshift camps, the threat of infections gets magnified. Thankfully, India did not ignore lessons learnt from the 1999 super-cyclone that slammed Odisha and claimed thousands of lives. The India Meteorological Department’s alert systems have been accurate this time, and precautions were taken. Yet, all this only serves to lower the death toll, not reduce it to zero—which should be our goal.