Opposed to the premonition that tourists would rush back from the popular destinations of coastal West Bengal as soon as a high alert for cyclone Hudhud was issued, many people have actually thronged to places such as Digha, Mandarmani and Shankarpur to watch the cyclone in action from a close proximity.
“Hudhud touched Visakhapatnam at 11.40 am at over 170 km per hour but there was only rain and strong winds of about 70 km per hour in Bengal which the daredevil tourists seem to be relishing,” said Antara Acharya, District Magistrate, East Midnapore.
“Initially there had been some cancellation of bookings once the warnings were issued but later when it was told that Hudhud would hit the Visakhapatnam coast we saw the influx of an adventurous lot who wanted to witness the cyclone from as close as possible. As it is we get good tourists on weekends. This was like an added attraction,” Acharya said. She said in some low-lying areas such as Shankarpur, some tourists had to be evacuated as water had crossed the embankments.
“Control rooms were opened. As precautionary measures, the civil defence force had been pressed in to keep over enthusiastic tourists safe and an adequate number of emergency force personnel had been kept on a stand-by in case there was a need for evacuation,” Acharya said.
Disaster management secretary, Indeevar Pandey too expressed concern over tourists going to coastal areas despite being warned. “There was a warning of heavy rain and no cyclonic conditions. Althouth tourists were asked not to venture out and fishermen were called ashore and relief material at the gram panchayat level had been readied, there was no barring of tourists from going to places such as Digha and Mandarmani. Heavy rain and wind were hardly a deterrent,” he said.
Sanjay Bansal, DM, North 24 Parganas said there had been an impressive number of people visiting the popular tourist spot of the district, Dhamakhali.
However, Santanu Basu, Sub-Division Officer (SDO), Diamond Harbour said this was not a cause of worry. “A control room had been opened at the SDO office but there was not even a situation of incessant rain here. Relief materials had been sent to different block offices as precautionary measures but the situation is far from being dangerous,” he said.
Hotel owners at Digha too, said there was no dip in business as had been anticipated. “The number of bookings had been quite high since Durga Puja and we had thought people would pull out because of the Hudhud scare but it didn’t happen. Our property was booked nearly to capacity,” said Sadhan Dey, owner of The Palm Resort in Digha.