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Cyclone Amphan makes landfall, killing at least a dozen

Cyclone Amphan makes landfall, killing at least a dozen
Heavy rain and wind lash India as Cyclone Amphan approaches the Odisha coast on Wednesday. Photo by Stringer/EPA-EFE

May 20 (UPI) -- Cyclone Amphan made landfall in northeast India on Wednesday, killing at least a dozen people, and bringing torrential rain and damaging winds, local officials said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the storm killed between 10 to 12 people in the state of West Bengal and another three in neighboring Odisha state.

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Authorities on Monday ordered the evacuation of about 1 million people in the region, which includes West Bengal's capital of Kolkata. Banerjee said there are about 500,000 people in shelters.

"Several areas are totally cut off and cannot be reached yet," she said during a news conference. We have no information yet -- it will take at least three to four days to assess the damage."

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The cyclone made landfall around 3 p.m. between Digha, West Bengal, and Bangladesh's Hatia islands. It had speeds between 95 mph and 102 mph, with gusts up to 114 mph, making it the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

India's Meteorological Department classified Amphan as an extremely severe cyclonic storm as it made landfall.

AccuWeather said the cyclone will threaten the Bay of Bengal region with torrential rain, widespread damaging winds and extreme storm surge, with Kolkata taking a direct hit. The city had 2.65 inches of rain as of Wednesday evening and widespread power outages.

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Paradip, Odisha state, reported 3.5 inches of rain.

The Hindustan Times reported that thousands of mud houses collapsed from the deluge and high winds uprooted trees and power poles. Sea water breached embankments and rushed into villages in the Sundarbans, a a mangrove region spanning the India-Bangladesh border.

Among those killed in Odisha state was a 2-month-old baby whose family's mud house collapsed in the rain. A woman in the state drowned while fishing, while a third died when an electric pole fell on her.

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Banerjee said Cyclone Amphan is a bigger disaster than the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened 112,000 people and killed 3,400 in India.

"We are shocked," she said. "The cyclone has affected the electricity supply and destroyed many houses, bridges and embarkments."

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