BHUBANESWAR, India – A powerful cyclone destroyed tens of thousands of adobe houses in East India on Wednesday, forcing the busiest regional airport in Calcutta to close as it brought storm surges to coastal areas for the second time in a week.
Cyclone Yaas packed gusts of up to 87 mph as it hit land, authorities said days after Tauktae tore up the west coast, sparking mass evacuations and putting pressure on authorities to fight a deadly second wave of coronavirus.
Authorities said more than a million people had been pulled out of the storm’s path while television showed pictures of rough seas, strong winds and rain in Odisha state, south of Calcutta, with shops and houses boarded up.
Around noon, the “very severe cyclone” would cross Odisha and its neighbors West Bengal, weather officials said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters that around 20,000 mud houses and shelters in the state had been damaged.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said another minister of state, Bankim Hazra, after seawater gushed into the lower-lying areas of Sagar Island in the Bay of Bengal and the tourist town of Digha, where a police station was flooded.
“Successive floods have hit the coast,” he added. “It’s flooding everywhere and villages are cut off.”
Kolkata State Airport was closed to flights until Wednesday evening.
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common at this time of year and often roar ashore, bringing death and destruction to the coastal areas of India and neighboring Bangladesh.
Police said they saved 10 people after their boat capsized on Tuesday in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, near the coast. Chilka Naval Base monitors ships in the region and is ready for rescue operations, the Indian Navy said.
The devastating wave of virus infections made preparations for the storm difficult. Odisha officials said they suspended tests, vaccinations and a door-to-door health survey in the three districts along the way of the storm.