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India evacuates thousands threatened by cyclone amid pandemic

India began evacuating thousands of villagers and halted port operations ahead of a cyclone expected to hit its east coast this week, officials said on Monday, May 18, piling pressure on emergency services grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

According to reports, the cyclone, expected to make landfall on Wednesday, May 20, comes as India eases the world’s longest lockdown, imposed in April against the virus, which has infected more than 96,169 people and killed 3,029.

The states of Odisha and West Bengal sent disaster management teams to move families from homes of mud and thatch to places of shelter from the severe cyclonic storm, Amphan, which is expected to gain strength in the next 12 hours.

Authorities at the port of Paradip in Odisha ordered ships to move out to sea to avoid damage as the cyclone formed over the Bay of Bengal was likely to intensify into a super cyclonic storm.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting in New Delhi, the capital, to plan how to mitigate damage and injuries.

India, with a coastline of 7,516 kilometers, gets hit by more than a tenth of all the world’s tropical cyclones, the bulk of them hitting its eastern coast around the Bay of Bengal.