Barrelling in from the Bay of Bengal, cyclonic storm Amphan on Wednesday cut a swath through our coastal regions knocking down trees, bringing heavy downpour, toppling thousands of homes, sending millions of villagers rushing into evacuation shelters and leaving authorities struggling to mount relief efforts amid a surging coronavirus outbreak.
We are told that the cyclone mostly hit West Bengal of India, but certainly its impacts on our coastal regions in Jashore, Satkhira, Khulna, Pirojpur, Borguna, Patuakhali, Bhola, Barishal and Bagerhat were no less destructive since most of the parts of the low-lying areas of these regions have been inundated by the high storm surge.
We must take immediate steps to screen the evacuated
people for COVID-19 symptoms and those with symptoms
should be isolated in no time
It is good to note that the government has done an exemplary job to move people from the cyclone’s path at the right time. Local administration acted promptly following the government directives in this regard. Now it is time to address the post-cyclone challenges that the people of our coastal regions will be facing.
South Asia is no stranger to cyclones, but this one had an added challenge -- protecting people from becoming infected by the coronavirus while they are packed inside emergency shelters.
As social distancing protocols, imposed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, took a back seat at the cramped cyclone shelters, we must take immediate steps to screen the evacuated people for COVID-19 symptoms and those with symptoms should be isolated in no time. But indeed it will be a tough task because around 24 lakh people were evacuated before the cyclone made its landfall.
On the other hand, immediate challenges for the government will be to ensure safe drinking water in the affected areas since all the freshwater sources there have been inundated by saltwater.
Also necessary steps should be taken to remove saltwater that has flooded the fish farms and cultivable land since salinity intrusion poses a serious threat to cultivation of crops and vegetables.