DPA/IANS /New Delhi/Kolkata
The death toll from Cyclone Amphan in India and Bangladesh yesterday exceeded 100 as thousands of residents in the eastern metropolis of Kolkata held protests and road blockades over the failure to have power and drinking water supplies restored.
Cyclone Amphan made landfall on Wednesday accompanied by high-speed winds and torrential rain.
It destroyed homes and crops, uprooted trees, submerged vast tracts of land and snapped power, water supply and communication lines in both countries.
Collapsing houses and trees as well as electrocutions killed 86 across West Bengal state and 15 in Bangladesh, according to disaster management officials.
West Bengal state capital Kolkata and affected coastal districts were the worst hit, with hundreds of thousands of people left without power and drinking water supplies.
Huge crowds of people gathered yesterday in various parts of Kolkata, demanding the immediate resumption of the utilities.
“It has been over three days since the storm struck the region, but there is still no power and water.
We and our children are suffering, but none of the civic bodies are responding.
We are helpless,” a resident told broadcaster News18 Bangla channel.
In some areas, locals set up roadblocks, chanted slogans and held up banners that read, “We want water and power.”
State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to people to remain patient, saying her administration was struggling to restore power and water supplies while tackling the spread of the coronavirus.
The state’s home department later requested Indian army support for the restoration of essential infrastructure and services devastated by the storm.
According to official sources, around 15mn people in West Bengal had been affected by the storm and over 1mn houses, mostly thatched homes, destroyed by the cyclone.
State disaster management minister Javed Khan said relief work had intensified, as workers were yesterday able to reach the worst hit remote areas like the Sunderbans mangrove forest, shared by West Bengal and Bangladesh, that was severely hit by sea surges breaking mud embankments and destroying crops.
“There is massive devastation but our priority is to restore power and water supplies within a week,” Khan said.
“We are running around 1,300 kitchens to provide food to 600,000 evacuated people.
Many who took shelter have now started moving back home, and we are providing them tarpaulin sheets to make their homes liveable for now.”
Sunderbans Affairs Minister Manturam Pakhira said many villages had been inundated and flattened by the storm, causing major losses, and the infrastructure would have to be rebuilt from scratch.
Sunderbans is an ecologically fragile biosphere reserve area known for the famous Bengal tigers.
It is an Unesco World Heritage Site.
Environmentalists told domestic media that the damage to the infrastructure would take a heavy toll on the livelihoods of locals.
They warned that the coming months would see a huge migration from the Sunderbans region.
The Indian Army yesterday rushed five columns to West Bengal to help the state in carrying out relief and rescue operations.
In a statement, the Army said: “Based on the West Bengal government’s request, the Army has provided five columns to assist the Kolkata City civil administration in the aftermath of cyclone Amphan.”
Earlier in the day, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had deployed 10 teams in West Bengal for post-cyclone management.
It stated: “On receipt of written request from Principal Secretary Disaster Management and Civil Defence, government of West Bengal, for deployment of additional teams, ten additional NDRF teams have been mobilized and are being rushed at the earliest from NDRF locations outside West Bengal.”
Presently, 26 NDRF teams are deployed in cyclone-affected areas of West Bengal for restoration work.
The additional deployment of 10 teams will bring the total to 36 teams of NDRF deployed across six districts affected by Amphan.
The state government said that the drinking water and drainage infrastructure was getting restored fast.
“Public Health Engineering Department asked to supply water pouches in gap pockets. Generators being hired where necessary. More than a hundred teams from multiple departments and bodies working for cutting of fallen trees, which is the key to restoration of power in localities,” the state Home department said in a series of tweets.
It also stated that West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company and Calcutta Electric Supply Corp had been asked to deploy maximum manpower, even while lockdown significantly affects the deployment potential of the latter.
“Police is also on high alert,” the government said.
Roads and various public utilities worth hundreds of crores were damaged in West Bengal.
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