Death toll rises as cyclone triggers crisis 'worse than COVID-19'
Powerful Cyclone Amphan has crashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh, killing at least 12 people, in a humanitarian crisis one official says is worse than the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 2.6 million people from both countries fled to shelters in a frantic evacuation made all the more challenging by the pandemic.
Cyclone Amphan, the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane, was packing sustained winds of up to 170km/h with maximum gusts of 190km/h.
READ MORE: Millions fleeing cyclone struggle to evacuate amid COVID-10 restrictions
Authorities warned it could cause extensive damage to flimsy houses and a storm surge could push seawater 25km inland, flooding cities including Kolkata.
All the reported deaths took place in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, according the state chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Ms Banerjee said one of the victims, a girl in the Howrah district, died after a wall from her house collapsed. She did not provide any further details how the rest of the deaths occurred.
Ms Banerjee said the cyclone was worse than the pandemic.
"The whole of the southern part of the state has been affected. We are shocked. It will take three to four days to assess the damage," the chief minister said Wednesday at a news conference.
"The cyclone has affected the electricity supply and destroyed many houses, bridges and embankments," she added.
According to Ms Banerjee, about 500,000 people have been evacuated to shelters by the state administration.
Bangladesh Oxfam director, Dipankar Datta, told CNN that thousands of makeshift homes in Bangladesh have been uprooted due to the cyclone. He added that he does not expect the storm to hit the Rohingya refugee camp area in Cox's Bazaar.
Heavy rain is expected to lead to flash flooding across the region through Thursday morning. Once the storm pushes inland, it will weaken significantly and the storm is expected to dissipate by Friday.
The region, with 58 million people in the two bordering countries, has some of the most vulnerable communities in South Asia: poor fishing communities in the Sunderbans and over a million Rohingya refugees living in crowded camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.