Prime Minister Narendra Modi will conduct an aerial survey of the damage caused by the cyclone in Bengal and Odisha on Friday, his office said. This came after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached out to Modi and asked him to visit the state.
“Tomorrow [Friday], PM Narendra Modi will travel to West Bengal and Odisha to take stock of the situation in the wake of Cyclone Amphan,” the Prime Minister’s Office tweeted. “He will conduct aerial surveys and take part in review meetings, where aspects of relief and rehabilitation will be discussed.”
Banerjee on Thursday said 72 people have died in the state due to Cyclone Amphan, PTI reported. Cyclone Amphan, the strongest storm on record in the Bay of Bengal, snapped power lines, blew roofs, upturned cars and uprooted trees after making landfall near Sagar Islands in South 24 Parganas district on Wednesday.
“I have never witnessed such a fierce cyclone and destruction in my life,” Banerjee said. “I have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the state and see for himself.”
The destruction caused by the storm, unprecedented in recent public memory, also left Kolkata airport completely flooded. The airport, however, began operations at noon on Thursday. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force were airlifted to Kolkata from Pune.
The chief minister, who addressed a review meeting with government officials at state secretariat, also said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured her that the Centre will extend full help to the state. Banerjee announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for the family members of each of the victims.
“So far as per the reports we have received, 72 people have died in the state due to Cyclone Amphan,” Banerjee added. “Two districts – North and South 24 Parganas are completely devastated. We have to rebuild those districts from scratch.”
The Trinamool Congress chief said she will visit the affected areas after three to four days, once connectivity is restored. “The restoration work will start soon,” Banerjee added. “A large part of North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata are facing massive power cut since last evening. Even telephone and mobile connections are down.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the cyclone should be declared a national calamity. “Relief and rehabilitation are priority at the moment,” the CPI(M) said in a statement. “The country and the people are already in the midst of a grim struggle for survival combatting the Covid-19 pandemic. People in both states urgently need the support and solidarity of the government and people of the country.”
Earlier in the day, Modi said the entire nation stood with West Bengal and “no stone will be left unturned” to help those affected. “Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan,” he tweeted. “In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal. Praying for the well-being of the people of the state. Efforts are on to ensure normalcy.”
About 45 lakh affected in Odisha
In Odisha, the cyclone brushed past the state’s coast and has affected about 45 lakh people, The Hindu reported. Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy on Thursday apprised Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba about the damages. According to preliminary estimate, 44.80 lakh people living in 89 blocks of the state were affected by incessant rain and strong winds.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik undertook an aerial survey of districts devastated by the cyclone.
The roads have been cleared by the disaster response force personnel, but the power infrastructure will take some time to return to normal.
The government said work on restoring power was going on at a war-footing and supply to 80% of the areas would likely be restored by Thursday evening. An assessment of the impact of the cyclone on the agriculture sector was expected to be completed within two days.
Damage is estimated to be higher in Bengal, says NDRF
National Disaster Response Force chief SN Pradhan said the damage due to the cyclone is estimated to be higher in West Bengal, adding that Odisha would return to normal in the next 24 to 48 hours. “Teams deployed are operational, we will continue to provide services till states require services, expected to be required for longer time in West Bengal,” he said at a press conference. “Additional alert teams of NDRF are being sent to Kolkata.”
He said a team from the Union Home Ministry will visit the states to evaluate the damages, adding that the number of deaths and injuries may rise in West Bengal.
Pradhan also said around 5 lakh people evacuated in West Bengal have been told to remain in shelters. “More than 2 lakh people in Odisha were evacuated, since situation is under control and weather has moderated in Odisha, some people have started returning to their homes,” he said.
The NDRF chief said his team members will work through the night to clear roads and restore normalcy as soon as possible in the affected areas. “The restoration work requires high skill levels, our trained personnel are continuing the work despite the challenges, we are committed to undertake the work, in coordination with states,” Pradhan said.
The India Meteorological Department said Amphan weakened from a super cyclonic storm to a cyclonic storm on Thursday morning, adding that it crossed India-Bangladesh border at 11.30 pm on Wednesday. “It has now weakened to a deep depression, centred over Bangladesh, there is no threat of cyclone in Bangladesh as well,” it added.