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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cyclone Amphan: Their lives broken, people in coastal areas say Covid-19 priority no more

At Tajpur, the uprooted trees blocked several roads. With relief not in sight, local residents got to work with axes and daggers.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Tajpur | Published: May 22, 2020 3:37:49 am
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A day after cyclone Amphan lashed the coastal areas of West Bengal, destroying livelihoods and inundating agricultural land, people worst-hit by the calamity said on Thursday that social distancing and precautions to prevent Covid-19 are no longer a priority as they try to rebuild their lives.

At Shankarpur, the storm uprooted several trees. The road parallel to the beach and connecting Shankarpur to Tajpur had boulders the tall waves had broken off the embankment. An excavator was clearing them from the 7-km road.

At Tajpur, the uprooted trees blocked several roads. With relief not in sight, local residents got to work with axes and daggers. None of them wore masks. “We have lost everything. First, our livelihoods and now our houses. We cannot think of social distancing at this time. It is no longer a priority for us. We have to work together to remove trees. There is no time to think about coronavirus,” said Mriganka Ghosh, who plies an e-rickshaw.

Sukanta Adhikari, 18, sat on a log beside a public toilet at Tajpur, hands on his head. The tin-roof shanty Sukanta’s family lived in has been flattened. “Our shanty has been destroyed. All my school books are soaked,” said the youth, whose family has taken shelter at a shelter where 300-odd people have been accommodated.

Several people had gathered at the canals along Digha-Contai Road to catch fish in waist-deep water. “All vegetables and rice stocks have been destroyed and there is no hope of getting relief material soon. Fish will be the only source of food today,” said Shantiram Mandal, showing his catch.

Fisherman Shyamal Nandi was seen walking with a wooden log on his shoulder. He pointed at his damaged boat and said, “I have to first repair my boat with this log. I cannot go out to the sea unless the boat is ready. The storm has snatched our livelihood.”

Sixty-year-old Tapan Bhunia, a farmer at Mandarmani, recalled the “night of horror”. “It was more ferocious than last year’s Bulbul. My 10 bighas of agricultural land is submerged. All my crops are destroyed.”

With several electric poles uprooted, power supply has been cut off to prevent incidents of short circuit. NDRF personnel are using chainsaws to cut the uprooted trees blocking roads.

Several mud houses have collapsed and in many areas, trees have fallen on houses.

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