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Recovery begins after storm ravages India, Bangladesh coast

/ 04:34 PM May 22, 2020

An Indian fisherman walks in the middle of heavy wind and rain in the river Brahmaputra in Gauhati, India, Thursday, May 21, 2020. A powerful cyclone ripped through densely populated coastal India and Bangladesh, blowing off roofs and whipping up waves that swallowed embankments and bridges and left entire villages without access to fresh water, electricity, and communications. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

NEW DELHI — India authorities on Friday began assessing damage and clearing roads in the wake of Cyclone Amphan that killed more than 90 people and left millions displaced after barreling through the coastal communities of eastern India and neighboring Bangladesh.

In West Bengal state, which bore the brunt of the storm that caused extensive flooding in its capital Kolkata, police, and teams from India’s national disaster response force removed fallen trees and other debris, repaired communication lines, and started getting hundreds of thousands of people out of shelters.

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Amphan hit land Wednesday as the most powerful storm in the region in more than a decade, dumping heavy rain amid a battering storm surge.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the cyclone must be treated as a national disaster. She also appealed for assistance from the federal government after receiving Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Kolkata airport.

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The two later conducted an aerial survey of the worst-hit areas of the state. It was Modi’s first trip outside the national capital after a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in late March.

“The country is already going through a crisis and during that time we have to deal with a cyclone,” Modi said, while announcing a $130 million disaster relief fund to the storm-battered state.

The cyclone has raised fears it could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus in overcrowded storm shelters.

In an initial assessment, officials in Bangladesh said the cyclone caused about $130 million in damage to infrastructure, housing, fisheries, livestock, water resources, and agriculture. The full extent of the damage along India’s eastern coast was not immediately known.

Authorities in both countries managed to evacuate more than 3 million people before Amphan struck.
At least 80 people were killed in West Bengal state, and two more deaths were reported in neighboring Odisha state. Bangladesh reported 13 deaths.

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