Modi, Shah speak to Mamata, assure Central help
With swirling wind ramming at a speed of 135 km per hour, cyclone Bulbul wreaked havoc in three districts of coastal Bengal killing at least 10 people and affecting more than 3 lakh on Sunday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah reviewing the situation. They spoke with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, assuring her all Central aid in the wake of the nature fury.
“Reviewed the situation in the wake of cyclone conditions and heavy rain in parts of Eastern India. Assured all possible assistance from the Centre. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being,” the PM wrote on Twitter. Making a landfall near Sagar Islands, about 120 km from Kolkata at 9 pm on Saturday, Bulbul took into its vortex three districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore smashing thousands of houses.
“We have information of about seven deaths out of which five occurred in North 24 Parganas,” said Minister of Disaster Management Javed Khan, adding at least 26,000 houses have been partially affected while about 4 thousand were fully damaged and 1.8 lakh people being evacuated. “We are running about 400 relief camps hosting 1.78 lakh evacuees,” the Minister maintained.
Unofficial sources said death toll could go further up as a trawler had sunk near the mudflat at Kakdwip.
“We have recovered one dead body. Some more people were there in the vessel. We are still not sure about their fate,” said a local.
Out of the dead people five were from Basirhat, two from South 24 Parganas and one from East Midnapore, sources said.
While close to 1.8 lakh people were evacuated from the low lying coastal areas that lay in the path of Cyclone Bulbul, NSI Airport at Dum Dum remained shut for 12 hours till early morning on Sunday. Fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea. The vast land between Nandigram in East Midnapore and Basirhat in North 24 Parganas past Sagar Islands, Namkhana, Fraserganj, Bakkhali wore a devastated look with crops and vegetables worth hundreds of crore getting literally ravaged.
“We had sown potato and brinjal all of which stand damaged,” said a villager at Bakkhali, one of the most visited sea shores in the State.
At Namkhana villagers literally squatted on the road as their houses had collapsed. “We will build our houses but how will we make up for the loss of the crops,” said Tapan Nandy a villager adding how winter crops and vegetables including cauliflowers and cabbage sown on thousands of acres of lands had perished.
“We hope the Government will do something for us,” they said even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled her prescheduled visit of North Bengal. She is likely to rush to Kakdwip-Namkhana on Monday and Basirhat on Wednesday, sources at State secretariat Nabanna said.
Shah too tweeted that he has been closely monitoring the situation as cyclone Bulbul hits eastern India.”We are continuously in touch with central and state relief agencies. Have spoken to CM @MamataOfficial and have assured all possible help. I pray to almighty for those who are braving out this adverse weather,” he said.
The Home Minister said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were assisting the State administration in evacuation, restoration of roads and in distribution of relief materials. The NDRF, along with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), police and fire personnel, is working on a war footing to clear road blockades caused by fallen trees and branches.
Mamata too tweeted that she would conduct an aerial survey of the affected areas around Namkhana and Bakkhali in South 24 Parganas. “Due to the severe cyclonic storm ‘Bulbul’, I have decided to postpone my North Bengal visit in the coming week. Instead, tomorrow I would take an aerial survey of the affected areas around Namkhana and Bakkhali.
“Later I would take a meeting at Kakdwip with administration to review relief and rehabilitation measures of the cyclone-affected people. I am also planning to visit the cyclone-affected areas of Basirhat of North 24-Parganas on 13 November, 2019,” Mamata tweeted.
According to the IMD, the very severe cyclonic storm had weakened into severe cyclonic storm before making landfall close to Sunderban Dhanchi forest. “Yesterday’s very severe cyclonic storm ‘Bulbul’ over northwest Bay of Bengal (BoB) moved northeastwards, weakened into a severe cyclonic storm and crossed West Bengal coast close to Sunderban Dhanchi forest during 8.30 to 11.30 pm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 110-120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph,” it said in an official release.
The Met department also predicted light to moderate rainfall over the next six hours from 12.30 pm in North and South 24 Parganas, East Midnapore and Nadia districts. State power minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said measures were being taken to restore power supply in areas, where electric cables have been torn apart due to the cyclone.