The Indian Army on Saturday sent three columns of troops to assist the Kolkata City Civil Administration to help with restoration work after Cyclone Amphan ripped through there, leaving behind a trail of destruction and grief, NDTV reported. At least 86 people have died in the state so far.
This came after the West Bengal Home Department said the government had mobilised just about everyone it could within the constraints of the lockdown in a “unified command mode” but was falling short of help in the immediate restoration of essential infrastructure and services. The state also asked for aid from the Railways and the private sector in providing manpower and equipment.
“Army support has been called for, the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force teams [have been] deployed,” the state’s home department said in a series of tweets. It added that authorities have been asked to supply water pouches where there is a shortage. “Generators being hired where necessary,” it said. “More than a hundred teams from multiple departments and bodies working for cutting of fallen trees.”
The storm, fueled by the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal, made landfall around near Sagar Islands in South 24 Parganas district on Wednesday with wind speeds as high as 185 km per hour. Images showed frothy waves cresting sea walls and trees snapping into pieces. The destruction caused, unprecedented in recent public memory, snapped power lines and upturned cars. The winds blew apart some buildings, while ropes of rain sent thousands of poor villagers rushing to evacuation shelters.
The cyclone also wreaked havoc over the ecologically fragile Sundarbans region, which has the world’s largest mangrove forest. The region is home to many rare animals, including Bengal tigers.
Around 1.5 crore people of the state have been reportedly directly affected by the cyclone and more than 10 lakh houses were destroyed, PTI reported. Calcutta Municipal Corporation officials told The Telegraph that the storm had felled more than 5,000 trees and 4,000 electric poles. Power supply was switched off to prevent electrocution, they said.
In Kolkata, the trail of destruction left behind by the storm led to protests against the administration on Friday, as essential services like phones and electricity remained suspended for the third day. The protesters alleged neither the civic body nor the power supply utility was responding to their calls. By evening, the demonstrations spread and people in adjoining districts such as Howrah and Hooghly also took to the streets.