India and Bangladesh evacuated millions of people from the path of the most powerful storm in 20 years, which is expected to hit on Wednesday evening and has raised fears of extensive damage to houses and crops.
The authorities’ move to save lives was complicated by continuing efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic and enforce social distancing.
Approaching from the Bay of Bengal, super cyclone Amphan was expected to hit the coast of eastern India and southern Bangladesh with winds gusting up to 185 kilometres per hour (115 miles per hour) – weakening from the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.
Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury, reporting from Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, said the cyclone was expected to land on the South Asian nation’s southeastern coastal belt about 6pm local time.
He said 1.4 million people have been evacuated and put into shelter but at least 46,000 people remained in the clear line of danger on some of the islands in the coastal areas.
“There is accommodation for at least five million people and there is medical team, rescue operation team, coastguard and the navy have been put on alert and standby in the coastal areas,” he said.
“This would be one of the biggest cyclones so they are taking it very seriously.”