Home / News / India /  At least 72 lives lost; relief work starts in Amphan-hit Bengal, Odisha

NEW DELHI : Relief and restoration work began in West Bengal as the state struggled to recover from one of the most devastating cyclones that hit the coastal state in decades.

“So far, 72 deaths have been reported in the state. I have never seen such a disaster before. Cyclone Amphan has left a trail of devastation beyond our thoughts," chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, announcing compensations of Rs2.5 lakh each for the next of kin of the dead. She also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the cyclone-affected areas.

North and South 24 Pargana districts, which were in the path of the cyclone, witnessed maximum damage with the death toll at 35. Kolkata reported 15 deaths, mostly from electrocution and buildings collapse. Over 500,00 people were evacuated from coastal districts and housed in relief shelters.

The state was pounded by extremely heavy rain, resulting in flooding in several areas. Kolkata received 236 mm rainfall on Wednesday after the cyclone made a landfall around 2:30 pm, said the India Meteorological Department.

Modi said no stone will be left unturned in helping those affected. “Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan... The entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal. I pray that the situation normalizes at the earliest," he tweeted.

Amphan pounded the West Bengal coast near Sunderbans with an intensity of a very severe cyclonic storm, carrying powerful winds gusting up to 185kmph and extremely heavy rains. The neighbouring state of Odisha, though not directly hit by the cyclone, also sustained damages.

As many as 41 teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) are on the ground in the two coastal states conducting relief and restoration operations, removing debris, restoring communication lines, and taking the injured to hospitals. Vast parts of West Bengal remained unreachable, with communication networks and power lines snapped. The functioning of Kolkata airport was restored at noon on Thursday.

“The work is extremely challenging in West Bengal, which has been completely battered by the cyclone. The state has sought four more teams and we have airlifted them to Kolkata, in addition to the 21 teams already there. We are still trying to ascertain the exact loss of life and property and it will take some time," said NDRF chief S.N. Pradhan.

The situation in Odisha has, however, been brought under control, with most evacuated persons now returning home. “We hope normalcy would return in Odisha in the next two days. The state escaped serious damage and our 20 teams began restoration work there soon after the landfall. Around two lakh persons had been evacuated," said Pradhan.

The trail of destruction was imminent because of the killer winds, but IMD said a lot of lives were saved because of the timely and accurate forecasts. “We had been tracking the cyclone with the Doppler weather radars at Vishakapatnam, Gopalpur, Paradip, and Kolkata and the actual track of the cyclone as well as its intensity was as predicted by IMD. We used the latest technology and state of the art models to make our forecasts," said director general of meteorology, M. Mohapatra.

Videos emerging from the ground showed that West Bengal, especially urban areas, including Kolkata, were battered by the cyclone. Kolkata witnessed the maximum impact from 5-9 pm, after which the wind speed began to drop. The highest wind speed of 130kmph was recorded at Dumdum. “Amphan has caused unprecedented havoc and disaster. The suffering of the people is unimaginable.," said governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it must be declared a national calamity and the Centre must provide substantial help to the state.

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