At least 20 dead, 60 000 homes damaged as Cyclone “Matmo” (Bulbul) hits Bangladesh and India


Tropical Cyclone "Matmo", also called Bulbul, made landfall over Indo-Bangladesh coast on Saturday, November 9, 2019. The Severe Cyclonic Storm has left at least 20 fatalities, 30 others injured, about 60 000 homes damaged, over 500 000 ha (1.2 million acres) crops affected, and hundreds of trees uprooted.

"In West Bengal, [the] death toll in cyclonic storm Bulbul-related incidents has gone up to 10," a local government official said. "Five persons were killed in North 24 Paraganas district, while two in South 24 Paraganas and one each was killed in East Midnapur, East Bardhaman, and Kolkata districts."

Over 465 000 people have been affected while 60 000 houses were damaged in nine districts of West Bengal, according to local minister in charge of disaster management Javed Khan.

"The administration is sending teams to assess the situation in the districts that were hit by the cyclone," Khan said.

Officials confirmed that around 40% of standing crops and more than 500 000 ha (1.2 million acres) of cultivable land spread over five districts have been affected due to rain and strong winds.

"Due to the severe cyclonic storm Bulbul, I have decided to postpone my North Bengal visit in the coming week. Instead, tomorrow I would take an aerial survey of the affected areas around Namkhana and Bakkhali," West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee said on a statement.

Matmo had winds of up to 120 km/h (75 mph) and gusts of up to 130 km/h (80 mph) at the time of landfall. The cyclone then weakened as it crossed the southwestern coastal region of Bangladesh, dumping incessant rain across the country. More than 20 mm (0.8 inches) of rainfall has also been recorded. Traffic has been completely disrupted in Kolkata and surrounding areas.

Residents aired their devastation over the cyclone's aftermath. A local resident named Sujata Sanyal said, "Due to the cyclone all our houses have been damaged. All the food grains are damaged. All our farm animals have died. We are in much pain. We are worried about what we will do about food now."

Another local named Vidya Sardar said, "All our houses have been destroyed. Houses have been destroyed completely. Where will we live now? We all have lost a lot."

The districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Bhadrak Balasore, Jajpur, and Mayurbhanj are said to have been affected the worst. Electricity was disrupted in these districts, but restoration is expected to be done by November 12.

About 1 200 domestic tourists were stuck on St. Martin's Island, part of the Cox's Bazar district. Authorities assured that all of them will be rescued.

Fire Service teams and crew have substantially assisted in clearing the roads and cutting down fallen trees.

Prior to the cyclone's landfall, authorities managed to displace more than 2 million people to over 5 000 shelters. School buildings and mosques have been used as a refuge in addition to dedicated cyclone shelters, which was built over the past years.

Coastal districts were expected to be inundated by storm surgest of around 1.5 to 2 m (5 to 7 feet) above normal tide.

According to India's meteorological department, the cyclone is weakening and has turned into a deep depression which is spawning heavy rainfall. Fishermen were warned not to venture into the sea for the next 12 hours.

Matmo formed over the South China Sea on October 29, moving west-northwest towards Vietnam. Strong winds and heavy rains resulted in power disruption and damaged establishments in the southern central provinces of Binh Din and Phu Yen. On October 31, the tropical depression was seen moving into Cambodia.  After passing over southeast Asia, Tropical Cyclone Matmo has reformed over the Bay of Bengal.

On November 10, the cyclonic storm has weakened with a maximum sustained wind speed of 80 to 90 km/h (50 to 56 mph), centered over the Southwestern part of Bangladesh.

As of 11:00 UTC on November 11, Banerjee announced a compensation of 200 000 rupees, which is roughly 2 700 dollars, for the families of those killed in the storm.

Featured image credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP / VIIRS

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