Cyclone Amphan made landfall in coastal areas of West Bengal at around 2.30 pm on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, and leaving a trail of destruction behind. The cyclone hit the state at a time when it is already struggling to fight the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
According to the IMD, the extremely severe cyclonic storm Amphan crossed West Bengal-Bangladesh coast between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) across Sunderbans (West Bengal) near latitude 21.65N & longitude 88.3E between 3.30 pm and 5.30 pm with wind speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that atleast 10 to 12 people have died and various districts of South Bengal has been devastated by Amphan.
“Atleast 10 to 12 people have died. Districts like North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Kolkata, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, even Puruli Bankura has been affected by Amphan. In fact the whole of South Bengal has been affected. We are shocked. It will take three to four days to asses the damage done,” she said, speaking to media from control room at Nabanna (state secretariat).
“On one hand we are fighting with Covid 19 on the other hand lakhs of migrants are coming back. Over all this now the cyclone. I think that this (Amphan) is a disaster bigger than Covid 19. I would request (centre) please forget politics and co operate with us and save the people,” she added.
Among those dead is 13-year-old Laksmi Kumari who stepped out of her house in Raj Chowdhury Lane when a concrete chunk fell on her head. She was rushed to Howrah state general hospital was was declared brought dead. Nurjehan Bewa a resident of Minakha in South 24 parganas also reportedly died after a tree fell on her. Another youth was reportedly killed in Basirhat in North 24 Parganas diatrict after a tree fell on him. However the third death has not yet been confirmed by the administration.
“We are lucky that we could move 5 lakh people to shelters. Agriculture in the districts are affected, electricity supply is finished, houses destroyed, bridges and embankments destroyed. We do not have connection with many areas,” she added.
She also informed that tomorrow a meeting of a special task force will take place to asses he damage and find ways to provide relief to the people.
Chief secretary Rajiva Sinha said, “It will take time for our workers to reach the affected areas. It will be only day after tomorrow that proper work can begin. The cyclone is still in North 24 parganas. There is huge loss in agriculture. We will first provide humanitarian help like food, water and shelter to those affected. Then we will think of a way to financially help or provide job avenues, so that they can stand on their feet.”
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In Kolkata, the storm began with a wind speed of 69 kmph but it reached 130 kmph at around 6.55 pm and thereafter increased its intensity. In Dum Dum area, maximum wind speed recorded was 133 kmph at 1920 IST. Districts of East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas were worst affected. The same areas were affected by cyclone Bulbul in November 2019.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spent the entire day at a control room at state secretariat monitoring the cyclone situation. She held talks with chairman of board of administrators at Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Firhad Hakim and took stock of the situation in the city. She is scheduled to spent the night at the control room.
The Chief minister was seen speaking to district magistrates and police supers of various districts including East Midnapore, North and South 24 Paranas and issuing orders from time to time. Since morning, heavy rains and strong winds battered coastal towns of Digha, Tajpur, Shankarpur, Mandarmani, Bakkhali, Kakdwip and Haldia.
As the cyclone intensified, wind gathered speed uprooting trees and damaging electrical poles. A large number of mud houses collapsed. A number of embankments was breached in coastal areas and reports of flooding in low lying areas were coming in from several areas in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts. Electricity was cut off in coastal areas and worse affected districts as a precaution by authorities. According to a North 24 Parganas district official, more than 5,200 mud houses collapsed in the said district.
According to met officials, it would take 5 to 6 hours for the cyclone to pass over Bengal and the rains are expected to continue till Friday. According to officials, the extent of the damage and loss of lives cannot be ascertained unless the storm ends.
Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre Alipore, Sanjib Bandyopadhyay said, “The process of landfall started at 2.30 pm. It takes 3 to 4 hours for landfall. At 2.30 pm we recorded 130 to 170 km per hour winds on East Midnapore and South 24 parganas. In Alipore, wind speed of 69 kms was recorded later it increased to 114. This will only increase.”
In Kolkata, trees were uprooted in over thirty areas including New Alipore, Central Avenue, SN Banerjee Road, Bidhan Sarani, Shakespeare Sarani, Ballygunge, Maidan, Hastings, Prince Anwar Shah Road, Gariahat and others. In many places, tress were uprooted with traffic signals. All major roads were blocked. There were report of water logging in some streets too and rains continued since morning.
Firhad Hakim, state urban development minister and chairman of administrative board of KMC said, “The cyclone is playing havoc in the state. We are keeping a watch. It would be risky to immediately start pressing our men on the roads. Let the cyclone pass, we will start work in war footing. We are receiving information and complaints. Our chief minister will stay over night in control room in Nabanna. We will also stay overnight here in KMC.”
By 1 pm, the administration closed Howrah Bridge, Vivekananda Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge) and all flyovers in Kolkata for traffic as a precautionary measure. A two-storey house collapsed in Entally area. Various parts of of Kolkata saw power cuts. On late evening, KMC started clearance work to remove the trees and traffic signals from the roads.
The state government had already moved over 5 Lakh people to cyclone shelters in various districts. However administration had to be cautions due to Covid 19 situation in Bengal and tried their best to maintain social distancing. NDRF and state disaster management teams with PPE have been placed in affected areas.
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