Tens of thousands of villagers are being evacuated from coasts in eastern India and Bangladesh as a super cyclone bears down.
India faces one of its biggest storms in about a decade, the weather office says, as the super cyclone Amphan is expected to hit its coast late on Wednesday.
“We have just about six hours left to evacuate people from their homes and we also have to maintain social distancing norms,” disaster management official SG Rai said.
“The cyclone could wash away thousands of huts and standing crops.”
Families in the states of Odisha and West Bengal are being moved to more than 1000 shelters and hastily repurposed quarantine facilities, not long after the world’s biggest lockdown against the coronavirus was eased.
COVID-19 has infected more than 100,000 in India and killed 3163.
Neighbouring Bangladesh, where the cyclone threatens the worst storm in about 15 years along a low-lying coast, was moving people to higher ground and urging use of masks against the virus, which has caused 20,995 infections and 314 deaths.
“We have taken necessary steps so that people can maintain distance and wear masks,” junior minister for disaster management Enamur Rahman said.
He said 12,000 cyclone shelters had been set up to accommodate more than five million people.
The cyclone, packing wind speeds of up to 160km/h, could cause tidal waves and heavy rainfall that may unleash floods.
It is expected to hit land between the districts of Chittagong and Khulna, just 150 kilometres from refugee camps housing more than a million Rohingya in flimsy shelters.
Aid workers have stockpiled emergency items such as food, tarpaulins and water purification tablets.