BHUBANESWAR, India – A powerful cyclone on Wednesday destroyed tens of thousands of mud houses in eastern India, forcing the closure of Kolkata’s busiest regional airport as it sent storm surges in coastal areas, the second such event in a week.
Cyclone Yaas recorded gusts of up to 87 miles per hour as it struck land, authorities said, days after Tauktae tore through the west coast, triggering mass evacuations and putting pressure on authorities who are battling a deadly second wave of the coronavirus.
Authorities said more than a million people had been displaced out of the storm’s path, as television broadcast footage of rough seas, high winds and rains hitting Odisha state, just south of Kolkata, with shops and houses closed.
At noon, the “very severe cyclone” would pass through Odisha and its neighbor, West Bengal, weather officials said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters that around 20,000 mud houses and temporary shelters were damaged in the state.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” said another minister of state, Bankim Hazra, after seawater gushed out in low lying areas of Sagar Island in the Bay of Bengal and in the tourist town of Digha, where a police station was flooded.
“Successive high tides have beaten the coastline,” he added. “There are floods all around and the villages are cut off.”
The state’s Kolkata 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, causing death and destruction to coastal areas of India and neighboring Bangladesh.
Police said they rescued 10 people after their boat capsized near the shore in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha on Tuesday. The Chilka Naval Base is monitoring ships in the area and is ready for rescue operations, the Indian Navy said.
The devastating wave of viral infections complicated preparations for the storm. Odisha officials said they suspended testing, vaccination and a door-to-door health survey in the three districts on the way to the storm.