Cyclone Amphan: Protests erupt as Bengal reels under storm aftermath; Army deployed for restoration work

Cyclone Amphan: With West Bengal struggling to restore essential services like drinking water, drainage, and electricity in the storm-ravaged areas, the state government sought the Army's help.

Three days after cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc in West Bengal, the death toll caused by the calamity in the state rose to 85. With the state struggling to restore essential services like drinking water, drainage, and electricity in the storm-ravaged areas, the state government sought the help of the Army.

On the state government’s request, Army Saturday deployed five columns of troops to assist the Kolkata City Civil Administration in post-cyclone relief work. “Based on the request from the Govt of West Bengal, Indian Army has provided five columns to assist the Kolkata City Civil Administration in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan,” the Army said in a statement.

Follow Cyclone Amphan LIVE Updates

Apart from the Army, the Home Department of the state government also sought teams from railways and port for restoring essential infrastructure and services in the cyclone-ravaged areas. In a series of tweets, the department said, “Drinking water and drainage infrastructure getting restored fast. PHE 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.”

Even as the lockdown continued to affect the deployment potential of various agencies, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) and Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) were asked to deploy maximal manpower, and police were kept on high alert, the department said.

Protests across Kolkata as power, water crisis continue

Meanwhile, with no access to power and water supply till now, several parts of Kolkata continued to see protests on Saturday. From Behala in the south of the city to Belgharia in the north, people armed with placards blocked roads with empty buckets and utensils. Protests were also reported from Sapuipara and Pallishree areas in Jadavpur, Garfa, Narkeldanga and Telangabagan.

The protesters said they were experiencing extreme hardships with the absence of electricity and water for the past three days. Due to the power cut, pumping water from the supply lines to the tanks of the houses was not possible leading to a dire situation amid the rising mercury, they said, adding that repeated calls to power utilities CESC and WBSEDCL went unanswered.

While some of the protesters blamed the lack of preparedness of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) despite repeated updates regarding the severity of the cyclone by the weather office, a number of them pointed fingers at the response of the power utilities to the crisis.

Don’t indulge in politics, have patience: Mamata Banerjee

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the other hand urged the people to have patience as the administration was working to restoring the essential supplies. She also hit back at the “negative campaigning” against her government, saying “this is not the time to do politics”.

Banerjee conducted an aerial survey of the worst-affected areas of South 24 Parganas district for the second day in a row, after accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday. “We are facing four challenges at a time, COVID-19, lockdown, issues related to migrant labourers and now the cyclonic disaster,” she said. After a review meeting at Kakdwip in the district, Banerjee said that devastation caused by cyclone Amphan is “more than a national disaster”.

10 NDRF teams rushed to Bengal

Ten additional teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were also rushed to the state in order to ramp up the relief and rescue operations, the Ministry of Home Affairs notified. The officials said the additional teams of the federal contingency force were sent following a written request from West Bengal’s Principal Secretary Disaster Management and Civil Defence seeking deployment of additional teams in the state. “Ten additional teams have been mobilised and are being rushed at the earliest from NDRF locations outside West Bengal. Teams are likely to reach Kolkata by late night Saturday,” news agency quoted an NDRF spokesperson as saying.

A total of 26 NDRF teams were already deployed in six cyclone-affected districts of Bengal and with the addition of 10 more, the total number of teams would be 36.

Odisha to send 500 personnel to assist in rescue ops in West Bengal

The Odisha government on Saturday said it would send 500 personnel from the state’s disaster rapid action force and fire service to assist in restoration operations in West Bengal. Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Pradeep Jena said
the ODRAF and fire service personnel will soon start proceeding towards the neighbouring state with required equipment from Sunday.

“#CycloneAmphan is one of the worst disasters to hit #WestBengal. The people of #Odisha stand by #WestBengal during this unprecedented crisis. Odisha has sent a team of 500 members, including 300 fire personnel & 10 ODRAF teams to assist in relief & rescue operations,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a tweet.

Won’t be able to receive ‘Shramik Special’ trains till May 26: Mamata

Earlier in the day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to the Indian Railways asking them not to send Shramik Special trains to state till May 26 in view of cyclone Amphan. “As the district administrations are involved in relief and rehabilitation works, it will not be possible to receive special trains for the next few days. It is therefore requested that no train should be sent to West Bengal till May 26,” the CM said. The letter from West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha to Chairman of Railway board V K Yadav stated that the state has been severely impacted by Amphan on May 20-21 which caused extensive damage to the infrastructure.

Livelihoods lost, Sundarbans will witness migration surge, feel observers

With livelihood lost and homes washed away in flood due to Cyclone Amphan, observers of the Sundarbans feel the ecologically-fragile region, which had already been under stress due to rising sea levels, would witness a migration surge in the coming months. West Bengal Sundarbans Affairs Minister Manturam Pakhira said the region had suffered losses that amount to thousands of crores and needed everything to be rebuilt from scratch. Embankments in the Sundarban delta — a UNESCO world heritage site —  were breached as the Amphan inundated several kilometres of the islands.

“With the infrastructure badly hit, it will take a heavy toll on the livelihood of the people there,” Sugata Hazra, director, school of oceanographic sciences at Jadavpur University, told PTI.  “In months to come, all of us will witness huge migration from the Sundarbans region. Whatever was rebuilt after Cyclone Aila, everything has been lost due to Cyclone Amphan,” Hazra said.

Deeply saddened to hear lives have been lost in Cyclone Amphan: UN Secretary-General

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he had been following the situation in India and Bangladesh after cyclone Amphan struck the two countries and expressed sadness over the loss of lives. “I’ve been following developments in Bangladesh and India after Cyclone Amphan made landfall Wednesday. Deeply saddened to hear lives have been lost and millions more have been affected. UN staff are on the ground assessing damage & emergency needs.”

Relief fundings so far

After taking an aerial survey of West Bengal and Odisha to review the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a relief package of Rs 1,000 crore for Bengal and Rs 500 crore for Odisha. The cyclone had made landfall in coastal areas of West Bengal at around 2.30 pm on Wednesday.

The European Union has also announced initial funding of 500,000 euros for people affected by the cyclone in India. “The EU will address immediate needs of people affected by the cyclone, as well as protect humanitarian aid and health workers from their exposure to the epidemic,” EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said in a statement.

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