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Amphan mayhem claims 72 lives

Amphan mayhem claims 72 lives

Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said 72 people, including 15 in Kolkata, have died till reports last came in due to the monstrous Super Cyclone 'Amphan'. She also announced Rs 2.5 lakh compensation for the families of the deceased.

Kolkata and several parts of West Bengal wore a look of destruction on Thursday after extremely severe cyclone 'Amphan' left a trail of devastation, blowing away shanties, uprooting thousands of trees besides swamping low-lying areas.

"It was like as if we were witnessing a tragedy unfold in front of our eyes. It was of huge size. It passed the state covering approximately 400 km at a time. When its head was in Nadia, the tail of the cyclone was causing devastation in Kolkata bringing life almost to a standstill," the Chief Minister said describing the ferocity of the cyclone that lashed through Bengal at an average speed of 400 km per hour.

Almost seven districts, including North and South 24-Parganas and East and West Midnapore, were left with nothing. "Everything has finished. So far 72 people have been killed and several left injured. Thank God that lives of lakhs of people got saved as around 5 lakh people were evacuated to flood centres in a short notice of two days," Banerjee said adding that the total quantum of damage is yet to be ascertained as connectivity with districts has snapped. It will take three to four more days to collect all information.

While giving a vivid description of the destruction caused by the cyclone, Banerjee said that most people died due to electrocution while there were some who were killed when trees fell on their houses.

"People were repeatedly asked not to come out of their houses. But unfortunately, they died getting electrocuted when they came out on water-logged streets with electrical poles with live wires lying here and there after getting dismantled," she said adding that two of the three youths got electrocuted in Howrah when they tried to pass through a water-logged road on a motorbike.

The maximum number of people died in South 24-Parganas with the death toll in the district reaching 18 so far while 17 died in North 24-Parganas followed by Kolkata where 15 people died on the ill-fated night. The cyclone claimed seven lives in Howrah and six in Nadia and East Midnapore each.

In Kolkata, most of the death cases happened due to electrocution in areas including Beniapukur, Ripon Street, Jorasanko, Manicktala, Girish Park and Regent Park.

"I have never seen such a scenario. I found while returning home late last night that the roadside iron railings were torn into pieces on Harish Chatterjee Street. Even a major portion of a building just opposite my house was damaged. But none of our officers had left their place of duty and I salute them for their dedication," Banerjee said while describing the nightmarish situation that she had witnessed after the cyclone on Wednesday night.

The Meteorological department had predicted that the cyclone would last for around three hours from 2.30 pm, but it continued almost till midnight. "I would like to thank God as it took place during low tide. Most areas along banks of river Hooghly would have got flooded if it had taken place during high tide. The water level in the river went up by 40 feet, it is unprecedented," Banerjee said adding that Nabanna was also badly affected. "Once I went to my office room on the 14th floor from the control room housed on the third floor of the state Secretariat and found the wind blowing in and the glass window panes were shaking badly."

The Chief Minister, who held a high-level meeting on Thursday to plan a proper restoration work, said: "Thousands of houses were damaged. Embankments in different places don't exist anymore. Crops were damaged heavily. Areas including Kultali, Diamond Harbour, Joynagar, Patharpratima, Sagar Island, Basanti, Ashoknagar, Basirhat are completely finished."

She stated that the cyclone should come up as a subject for research work as global warming is the cause and such an incident has taken place after centuries. "We are fighting against COVID-19. That looks microscopic in size compared to this cyclone which was much more dangerous than the deadly disease," she said.

She added: "Union Home minister Amit Shah had called me. I told him that I have never seen such a fierce cyclone and disaster. I also asked him to release the disaster management fund that the states normally get in such a situation at the earliest."

In connection with the release of the Centre's funds, she further added: "It will be of no help if we get the same after 500 days. I hope it will be released. At present we are simultaneously fighting against Covid, migrant issues and now the destruction due to the cyclone and this comes when the state's economy has nosedived due to the lockdown."

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