Cyclone Amphan loss estimated at US$13b in India, may rise in Bangladesh

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KOLKATA/DHAKA (Reuters): A powerful cyclone that tore through India's eastern state of West Bengal this week has caused a damage of one trillion rupees (US$13 billion or RM56.73 billion) to infrastructure and crops, state officials said.

Neighbouring Bangladesh, which also fell in Cyclone Amphan's path on Wednesday, initially said it had suffered a loss of 11 billion taka (US$130 million or RM567.26 million). But this could rise, government officials said.

The two countries have lost at least 102 people in the cyclone, the most powerful in over a decade, mostly because of house collapses and electrocution. More than three million people were evacuated before Amphan made landfall, preventing a large number of deaths.

The cyclone has affected more than 13 million people, some losing houses, crops and lands, and over 1.5 million houses have been damaged, two West Bengal government officials told Reuters.

In North 24 Parganas, a district in southern West Bengal, 700 villages were flooded and 80,000 people lost their homes, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Hundreds of thousands are in relief camps across the state, the officials said, amid concern that lax social distancing norms could fuel a spread of Covid-19 cases.

In Kolkata, the state capital, authorities struggled to remove debris from roads and clear trees that fell as the cyclone, packing winds of 133kph, pounded the city of 14 million for hours.

The cyclone also destroyed farmland in Bangladesh's low-lying coastal areas, damage that will likely endanger livelihoods, non-profit ActionAid said.

"Communities need urgent support as they are without basic necessities such as food, clean water and materials to rebuild their homes," Farah Kabir, the country director of ActionAid Bangladesh said.