18 dead in thunderstorm; CM promises all possible help
Kolkata: The Mamata Banerjee government will provide all possible help to next of kin of those killed in Tuesday's sudden thunderstorm that claimed 18 lives. Those who have lost their houses will also get necessary assistance.
So far, 18 people have been killed and more than 300 houses were partly or completely damaged due to the storm that hit Kolkata and its adjoining districts at a speed of 82 to 86 km per hour.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday while leaving Nabanna: "Some have even compared yesterday's (Tuesday) strong winds with that of Aila. There was no alert and since it happened all of a sudden it led to the loss of lives. The affected people including those whose houses were damaged will receive all sorts of help from the Bengal government as disaster management doesn't fall under the code of conduct (with dates of Panchayat elections are announced) and it can be carried out any time."
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has already handed over cheques worth Rs 2 lakh each on Wednesday to relatives of those who were killed on Tuesday.
Banerjee said that she spoke to Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and took stock of the situation. Chief Secretary Malay De, Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha and Commissioner of Police worked till late night. Information was collected from the District Magistrates, she said and added: "Though no one has control on natural calamity, people could have been alerted on time if there was prior information of thunderstorm at such a high speed..."
"Police, civic bodies and district administration took immediate measures to restore normalcy and it helped in the normal flow of traffic since Wednesday morning," Chief Minister maintained.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) will repair the buildings that have been damaged due to the storm, Mayor Sovan Chatterjee added.
The Councilors have been asked to prepare lists of such damaged structures and submit them to the Building department. The Mayor said around 400/450 buildings have been damaged and out of which many are old and dangerous ones. Around 250/275 trees have been uprooted all over the city. Once the lists were made available, the KMC will start repairing them. This is for the first time when such a venture has been taken up by the civic authorities.
The KMC workers along with the Disaster Management teams are removing the trees from different city streets. The Quick Response teams in the districts have been kept on high alert.
Traffic movement along Southern Avenue was affected for a short duration after an uprooted tree blocked the road. Several vehicles were damaged after trees fell on them in different areas. Uprooted trees affected traffic movements on Ballygunge Circular Road, Manicktala Main Road, Beliaghata Main Road along with several others. Many tall trees got uprooted inside Ballygunge Lake area as well.
Expert town planners said rampant planting of tall tree saplings in the 1990s is responsible for the disaster. Because of underground utility services, the roots of these trees cannot go deep and during any storm with wind speed above 60 km, these trees are the first to fall. They said before planting trees in cities, a careful study is done and those whose roots do not go deep are planted.
Debashis Kumar, Member, Mayor-in-Council (Parks and Squares) said for the past seven years the KMC board has decided not to plant gulmohar and radha chura trees in Kolkata. He maintained that majority of the trees that have been uprooted due to the storm are of these two varieties.
In New Town, 15 trees were uprooted. HIDCO's special team took immediate measures to remove them and restore traffic.