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At least 87 people reported dead after cyclone hits India, Bangladesh

Wide swaths of the coasts of India and Bangladesh were flooded and millions of people remained without power Thursday, after the most powerful cyclone to hit the region in more than decade left dozens dead and a trail of destruction.

Officials warn relief and repair work will be made harder by coronavirus pandemic

Villagers salvage items from their house damaged by cyclone Amphan in Midnapore, West Bengal, India on Thursday. The strongest cyclone in decades slammed into Bangladesh and eastern India on Wednesday, sending water surging inland and leaving a trail of destruction. (Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images)

Wide swaths of the coasts of India and Bangladesh were flooded and millions of people remained without power Thursday, after the most powerful cyclone to hit the region in more than decade left dozens dead and a trail of destruction.

In the Indian city of Kolkata, home to more than 14 million people, large portions of the metropolis and its suburbs were underwater, including the city's main airport. Roads were littered with uprooted trees and lampposts, and electricity and and communication lines were down.

Cyclone Amphan also badly damaged many centuries-old buildings when it tore through the city on Wednesday.

"It feels like a dystopian Jurassic Park of sorts," said Shuli Ghosh, who runs a cafe in Kolkata. "The roofs of many homes have flown away and the streets are waterlogged."

Cyclone Amphan made landfall on Wednesday lashing coastal areas in both India and Bangladesh with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of 170 kilometres per hour. (CBC)

When the storm made landfall on Wednesday it lashed coastal areas in both India and Bangladesh with heavy rain, a battering storm surge and sustained winds of 170 kilometres per hour and gusts up to 190 km/h. It devastated coastal villages in both countries, knocking down mud houses, ripping out electricity poles and uprooting trees.

In Bangladesh, television stations reported 13 deaths, while 72 deaths were reported in India's West Bengal state. Officials said two people were killed in India's Odisha state.

Hundreds of villages in Bangladesh were flooded by tidal surges and more than a million people were without electricity.

WATCH |  India, Bangladesh face widespread destruction after powerful Cyclone Amphan tears through

The extent of the damage is still not known because power and communication lines were destroyed. 0:48

Communication difficult

Officials in both countries said the full extent of the damage remained to be seen as communication lines to many places were down.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said authorities were working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance got to those affected.

"No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected," Modi tweeted on Thursday.

A bus damaged by a fallen tree is seen Thursday in Kolkata, India, in this still image taken from video. (ANI/Reuters TV)

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and physical distancing measures had made mass evacuations ahead of the storm difficult. Shelters were unable to run at full capacity in many places and some people were too scared of the risk of infection to mass there.

Likewise, the pandemic will have an impact on relief efforts and the recovery. The damage caused by the storm is likely to have lasting repercussions for poor families already stretched to the limit by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Crops destroyed

In India's Odisha state, the cyclone destroyed crops of betel, a leaf used as a wrapper for chewing areca nut or tobacco. In Bangladesh's southwestern district of Bagerhat, more than 500 fish farms were flooded.

Debashish Shyamal, who lives in a fishing village along the coast of West Bengal took shelter with his family in a government clinic. He said the wind blew open the windows and doors and for hours they sat huddled inside, drenched by the torrential rain.

On Thursday, he woke up to dangling electricity wires, waterlogged streets and an entirely uprooted forest next to his village.

"There is nothing left," he said.

An aerial view taken Thursday shows flooded houses and buildings as a dam broke after the landfall of cyclone Amphan in Shyamnagar, West Bengal, India. (Munir uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

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