Tragic photo shows suffering in country hit by cyclone amid virus crisis

An image of a woman and child clad in face masks fleeing a slum in a torrential downpour has captured the horrific impact of both the coronavirus and the most powerful cyclone to hit India and Bangladesh in more than a decade.

Vast swathes of the coast in India and Bangladesh have been flooded and millions of people remain without power, after Cyclone Amphan hit the region on May 20, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 100 people dead.

In the Indian city of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, large portions of the metropolis and its suburbs were underwater, including the city's main airport.

Roads were littered with uprooted trees and lamp posts and electricity and and communication lines were down.

A woman shown clutching her child in heavy rain as they evacuate a slum in Kolkata. Source: Reuters
Floodwater nearly drowned entire homes in West Bengal, India on May 21. Source: AAP

Cyclone Amphan also badly damaged many centuries-old buildings when it tore through the city on Wednesday (local time).

"It feels like a dystopian Jurassic Park of sorts," said Shuli Ghosh, who runs a cafe in Kolkata.

"The roofs of many homes have flown away and the streets are waterlogged."

When the storm made landfall on Wednesday it lashed coastal areas in both India and Bangladesh with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of 170 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 190 km/h.

It devastated coastal villages in both countries, knocking down mud houses, ripping out electricity poles and uprooting trees.

In Bangladesh, television stations reported 13 deaths, while 72 deaths were reported in India's West Bengal state. Officials said two people were killed in India's Odisha state.

Fallen trees, an overturned cart and a mess of debris on a street in Kolkata, India, on May 21. Source: AAP
Technicians shown tending to destroyed power lines in Kolkata, India. Source: AAP

Hundreds of villages in Bangladesh were flooded by tidal surges and more than a million people were without electricity.

Officials in both countries said the full extent of the damage remained to be seen as communication lines to many places remained down.

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, said authorities were working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance to the those affected.

"No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected," Modi tweeted on Thursday.

An uprooted tree smashed and destroyed a van, bringing down power lines with it in Beliaghata. Source: AAP

Coronavirus restrictions hinder evacuations

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing measures had made mass evacuations ahead of the storm difficult.

Shelters were unable to run at full capacity in many places and some people were too scared of the risk of infection to gather there.

Likewise the pandemic will have and impact on relief efforts and the recovery.

The damage caused by the storm is likely to have lasting repercussions for poor families already stretched to the limit by the economic impact of the pandemic.

In India's Odisha state, the cyclone destroyed crops of Betel, a leaf used as a wrapper for chewing areca nut or tobacco. In Bangladesh's southwestern district of Bagerhat, more than 500 fish farms were flooded.

People wade through a flooded street after cyclone Amphan hit Kolkata, India. Source: AAP

Debashish Shyamal, who lives in a fishing village along the coast of West Bengal took shelter with his family in a government clinic.

He said the wind blew open the windows and doors and for hours they sat huddled inside, drenched by the torrential rain.

On Thursday, he woke up to dangling electricity wires, waterlogged streets and an entirely uprooted forest next to his village.

"There is nothing left," he said.

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