Deadly cyclone cuts destructive path in India and Bangladesh

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In this Wednesday, May 20, 2020 photo, people crowd a shelter before Cyclone Amphan made landfall, in Shyamnagar, Shatkhira, Bangladesh. A powerful cyclone that slammed into coastal India and Bangladesh has left damage difficult to assess Thursday. (AP Photo/Abu Sufian Jewel)

NEW DELHI – Wide swaths of coastal India and Bangladesh were flooded and millions were without power Thursday as Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than a decade, killed over 80 people and cut a path of destruction that is still being assessed.

Many parts of the Indian metropolis of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, were under water, and its airport was closed briefly by flooding. Roads were littered with uprooted trees and lamp posts, electricity and communication lines were down and centuries-old buildings were damaged.

Officials in both countries said the full extent of the damage caused by the cyclone was not known because communications to many places were cut. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated ahead of the storm, a process complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Amphan came ashore Wednesday with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of 170 kph (105 mph) and gusts up to 190 kph (118 mph). It devastated coastal villages, knocking down mud houses, tearing down utility poles and uprooting trees.

“I have never seen such a disaster before,” said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, adding that the government would pay the equivalent of $3,310 to families who lost a relative in the storm.

At least 74 people were killed in India, with most of the deaths in West Bengal state, which includes Kolkata. Broadcasters in Bangladesh reported 13 were killed in that country.

“The roofs of many homes have flown away and the streets are waterlogged," said Shuli Ghosh, who runs a cafe in Kolkata.

With many of its streets still flooded and phone and internet service not fully restored, officials said they were trying to determine the extent of damage in the capital of West Bengal state.