Cyclone Amphan: Two WB districts ‘completely devastated’

Cyclone Amphan weakened on Thursday, a day after tearing through West Bengal where 72 people were killed, and two districts were “completely devastated”. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said thousands of people have been left homeless, the gusty winds even washed away bridges and the heavy rain left several low-lying areas in waist-deep water.

The fiercest cyclone to hit West Bengal in 100 years, Amphan destroyed mud houses and crops, and uprooted trees and electric poles. It also wreaked havoc in Odisha damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts. Odisha government officials estimated that the cyclone has affected around 44.8 lakh people in the state.

“So far as per the reports we have received, 72 people have died in the state due to Cyclone Amphan. Two districts -- North and South 24 Pargana -- are completely devastated. We have to rebuild those districts from scratch. I would urge the Central government to extend all help to the state,” Banerjee told reporters after conducting a review meeting with officials.

“I have never witnessed such a fierce cyclone and destruction in my life,” she said as she requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit affected areas. He will undertake an aerial survey today, the PMO said without giving any further details.

The chief minister also announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to Rs.2.5 lakh for the family members of each of the deceased.

Besides North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata, the districts of East Midnapore and Howrah were the worst hit.

The death toll included 17 from North 24 Parganas, 15 from Kolkata, 10 from Basirhat and four from the South 24 Parganas-Sunderban region.

In Kolkata, hundreds of cars were overturned in the strong winds with speed up to 125 kmph that also felled trees and electricity poles blocking key arterial roads and intersections. Large parts of Kolkata and other affected districts went without power.

Mobile and internet services were also disrupted as the fierce cyclone had damaged several communication towers.

Residents recalled “living through hell” for six hours as the winds howled incessantly.

Windows buckled from the pressure of the storm, cars floated on water logged roads, bumping against each other. Parts of air conditioners were flying around like missiles.

At Kolkata central avenue, a small concrete temple situated at the base of a banyan tree was uprooted. According to officials, more than 1,000 mobile towers across the state and city have been completely destroyed. Streets and homes in low lying areas of Kolkata were swamped with rainwater.

“The worst was the wind. The six hours went very slowly yesterday,” said Mithu Chatterjee who lives on the fifth floor of a 30-storey building whose lift was shut.

Modi said no stone will be left unturned in helping those affected by the cyclone. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal, he tweeted.

The Indian Meteorological Departmnt said the cyclone has weakened significantly and moved to Bangladesh where 10 people have been killed.

In several shelter homes in the affected districts, people were seen jostling for food and shelter ignoring the social distancing norms amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said more than 14 lakh people in the city are living without electricity since Wednesday night.

Packing heavy rain and winds with speeds of up to 190 kmph, the cyclone barrelled through coastal districts of North and South 24 Parganas of Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday unleashing copious rain and windstorm.

The National Crisis Management Committee reviewed the rescue and relief operations in West Bengal and Odisha at a meeting in Delhi and was told that minimal loss of lives was reported due to accurate forecast by the IMD and timely deployment of NDRF troops.

The NDRF is moving additional teams to West Bengal to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata.

The Railways, which suffered major damages to its infrastructure, is in the process of restarting its operations at the earliest, the statement said.

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