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Cyclone Amphan brings double crisis to Bangladesh and India

21 May 2020
Asia - Bangladesh - Cyclone Amphan - women outside destroyed home

A woman stands outside her home, which has been destroyed by Cyclone Amphan as it tore through Bangladesh. Photo credit Amit Rudro for CRS/ Caritas Bangladesh 

Cyclone Amphan has devastated the homes of millions of people in India and Bangladesh - adding another crisis on top of efforts to deal with coronavirus.

At least 80 people are known to have lost their lives, with the figure likely to rise as communication with remote regions is re-established.

Janet Symes, CAFOD’s Head of Asia Region, said:

“Vulnerable communities were already facing the crisis of coronavirus when the ‘super cyclone’ struck on 20 May, bringing with it flooding, landslides and winds of more than 160mph which tore off roofs and brought down trees and power lines.”

It is the first super cyclone to form in the Bay of Bengal in more than 20 years, and has struck at a time when communities were already trying to limit the spread of coronavirus.

What impact has the cyclone had?

Cyclone Amphan caused widespread damage across India and Bangladesh. 

In Khulna region of Bangladesh, over 54,000 people have been severely affected. More than 500 fresh water ponds have been submerged by saline water and with few options for collecting drinking water from nearby sources, communities are having to use tablets or travel up to 1-2km from their homes to collect drinking water. About 2,500 toilets have also been damaged or submerged by the high tidal surge.

Asia - Bangladesh - Cyclone Amphan - family and flooded home

A family sits in their flooded home after Cyclone Amphan raged through Bangladesh the night before. Photo credit Amit Rudro for CRS/ Caritas Bangladesh 

“Returning to our homestead we found nothing," said Ms Angura Das who is 50 and from from Matura village in Khulna region. "We are becoming more helpless as we have already been skipping meals due to decreasing income scope for COVID-19”.

Ms Karuna Rishi, who is 53 and from the same village, told us: “We don’t know when miseries will be ended as we have experienced three consecutive suffering within last seven months. The last Cyclone Bulbul partially damaged our house. This time it was fully destroyed while we were suffering from Coronavirus”.

Asia - Bangladesh - Cyclone Amphan - preparations early warning

Volunteers and staff of the Church aid network in Bangladesh delivered early warning messages as Cyclone Amphan approached. Photo credit: Caritas Bangladesh

In Barishal region of Bangladesh, over 45,000 people have been severely affected. 15 villages have been submerged and around 363 hectares of paddy fields damaged due to strong winds and high tide water. This will seriously damage the ability of communities to grow rice and feed their families over the coming months.

What has the response been from the Catholic aid network?

“The Catholic Church aid network is on the ground in the affected areas and mobilised hundreds of volunteers to help evacuate thousands of people in its path – saving countless lives,” said Janet Symes.

“It also prepared evacuation shelters, ensuring they were clean and had handwashing supplies, masks and gloves to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

As the extent of the damage caused by the storm slowly emerges and the clean-up begins, Caritas Bangladesh – a local organisation CAFOD has worked with for many years - will be supporting families whose homes have been torn apart by providing them with essential food supplies and shelter.

Rohingya refugees living in camps in Cox's Bazar were also affected by the cyclone, with particular concerns around landslides and the spread of coronavirus as people seek safety in evacuation shelters. 

Find out more about our response to the Rohingya Crisis and the spread of coronavirus