As rain intensified on Tuesday ahead of the impending arrival of super cyclone Amphan, the sea-side resort town of Digha in Purba Medinipur district, about 182 km from Kolkata, wore a deserted look. Almost all shops were closed and the beach was empty. No one was allowed near the sea shore, and policemen used loudspeakers to warn people.
Around 8 pm, local panchayat electrician Samiran Dutta entered a deserted cyclone shelter in Ramnagar, near Digha, holding a bunch of keys. Dutta had worked since the morning to fix electrical wires at the three-storey Talgachari 1 Multipurpose Cyclone Shelter, and make it habitable for people who will seek refuge from the storm that is expected to hit the region by Wednesday evening.
“Now, electricity will not be an issue here. Lights and fans are working after installation of electrical wires. Now, a bit of cleaning is required before the shelter is thrown open for people,” he said when The Indian Express visited the shelter.
By Wednesday morning, the building will be crowded with evacuees from low-lying areas in Ramnagar. Usually, the shelter can accommodate 700 people, but because of the Covid-19 pandemic only 100 people will be allowed to take shelter since social-distancing norms have to be maintained.
“We cannot take risk as East Midnapore district has been identified as a Covid-19 red zone district. We have to abide by government guidelines and allow only 100 people here. They will be provided with masks, sanitisers and relief kits. A rural kitchen will be set up tomorrow for these evacuees,” said Ramnagar I Joint Block Development Officer (BDO) Utpal Roy.
The BDO aims to evacuate 20,000 people from the block, which includes people from the resort towns of Digha, Shankarpur and Tajpur. The evacuation started in the morning and will continue till Wednesday afternoon.
In a bid to accommodate more people without violating social-distancing rules, a large number of schools have been turned into relief shelters.
About 90 relief shelters had been filled with evacuees till Tuesday evening, he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines