A tree falls on power lines during strong winds due to Cyclone Amphan at Kakdwip near Sunderbans area in South…Read More
BHUBANESHWAR/KOLKATA: Barrelling in from the Bay of Bengal with wind speeds of up to 185kmph, severe cyclonic storm Amphan on Wednesday cut a swathe through northern Odisha before bearing down on West Bengal, where it claimed 10 to 12 lives, flattened houses and cast aside trees and electricity poles like matchsticks in six-and-a-half hours of monstrous fury that left Kolkata and most of south Bengal pulverised.
While Odisha was spared the worst of Amphan, the Sunderbans region and six south Bengal districts felt the full impact of winds gusting at 155-165kmph along with torrential rain after Amphan made landfall near Sagar Island around 2.30pm and entered Kolkata, about a 100km north, around 5pm.
CM Mamata Banerjee said there were reports of “at least 10-12 deaths” and “untold devastation”, adding that it would take a few days to assess the extent of the damage and destruction. One of the deaths was reported in Howrah’s Shalimar and two more in North 24-Parganas. The cyclone also razed to the ground many buildings in the south Bengal.
Mobile and broadband networks went on the blink while many Kolkata neighbourhoods were without power till late in the night. Transformer fires were reported across the city.
No loss of life was officially reported in Odisha, which along with Bengal had carried out a massive evacuation exercise over three days after receiving the IMD’s cyclone alert. Over 5 lakh people in Bengal and 1.58 lakh in Odisha were moved to safer places before Amphan struck.
Mamata appealed to the Centre to view the calamity in a “humane way” and not politically, saying South and North 24-Paraganas had been “ravaged”.
“Howrah has been badly affected as well. But the Sunderbans, Patharpratima, Basanti, Namkhana, Kultali, Baruipur, Sonarpur and Bhangar (all in South 24-Parganas) have suffered extensive damage,” she said. “The damage and the death toll would have been much worse had we not evacuated more than 5 lakh people at a day’s notice.” Comparing Amphan with cyclone Aila in 2009, Mamata said from the control room at Nabanna, “Amphan was 110 if Aila was 10.”
Regional Meteorological Centre director GK Das called Amphan the “strongest cyclone to hit Kolkata this century and fiercer than Aila in terms of wind speed”.
Those living in highrises said they had never experienced anything like this. “On the 40th floor, it felt as if we were being shaken by the collar. Some of the window frames got disfigured,” said Debjani Mukherjee, a resident of the Urbana complex on Kolkata’s EM Bypass.
The family of Sarojini Mukherjee, Bengal’s oldest Covid-19 survivor so far, said from their home at Madurdaha on the city’s southern outskirts that Amphan had added to the agony of the pandemic. “First the pandemic, now this storm. I don’t even feel like talking about it. I just hope the situation gets better soon,” said Bikas Mukherjee.
In Odisha, the northern districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada bore the brunt of Amphan passing by. The Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, off the coast of Balasore, survived the storm.
The temple town of Puri, which had been ravaged by cyclone Fani last year, heaved a sigh of relief as Amphan didn’t inflict any damage. Bhubaneswar and Cuttack weren’t affected either beyond waterlogging in parts of the twin cities.
“The worst is over for the state,” special relief commissioner Pradeep Kumar Jena announced.
“Comparison of the forecasted and actual track of the cyclone Amphan update shows the forecast has turned out to be accurate, indicating that the prediction of rainfall, wind and tidal wave has also been correct. This has increased the confidence of disaster management authorities,” Union minister Harsh Vardhan said.