Cyclone Amphan shows nature at its most brutal, but it shows our brutality first

Climate Change and Our Responsibility

The warnings began trickling in late last week. A depression in the Bay of Bengal had developed into a “super cyclone” and would hit West Bengal by Wednesday. Despite my imagination trying hard, it couldn’t quite fathom the possible ferocity of Amphan. Given that the city was already in lockdown because of the corona pandemic, the state’s orders of “stay indoors” seemed both redundant and ironic. On Wednesday, a leading daily wrote a headline that read “Beast from the Bay”. I was amused.

I live with my parents on the 13th floor of a high-rise in Kolkata. On Wednesday we woke up to persistent rain, but seeing that it was no heavier than a usual monsoon downpour, my mother, for instance, was convinced we didn’t have much to fear. All that changed at around half-two in the afternoon. As the winds began to almost screech, the rain itself had started to seem ominous. It fell as if it were something solid. You felt you could hear fistfuls of it falling on the ground with loud thuds.

Hearing the windows rattle and feeling my chair rock on its own were unnerving enough in themselves, but by 5:30pm, water started seeping into my room through every crevice it could find. We must have used every towel and mop available, but until 8:00pm, there was little respite. Friends and relatives were reporting similar flooding. Trees were being uprooted everywhere; one even broke two cars in our compound. A small refugee colony in the south of the city, I heard, was almost entirely destroyed.

On Thursday, we woke up to find that our mobile and broadband connectivity had been affected. Far worse than this relatively banal concern, ten people had died in the state. Towns, villages and Kolkata neighborhoods were completely water-logged. On social media, users shared a video of the Kolkata airport almost entirely submerged. None of our imaginations, it turned out, could have imagined the scale of this tragedy. While the government embarks on that much-needed process of rehabilitation, it might be prudent for them to also consider evidence that shows climate change has made cyclones more dangerous. Amphan certainly shows nature at its most brutal, but it shows up our brutality first.

One week after Cyclone Amphan struck Bangladesh and India, hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless due to lingering coastal flooding.