Super Cyclone Amphan: A narrative of deluge, destruction & distress
Kolkata: Kolkata wore a macabre sight on Thursday morning after ravaging 'Amphan' swept through the city, denuding not only large swathes of distinction, water-logging maximum areas, uprooting over 300 trees, snapping communication lines and electricity, flattening homes and destroying crops largely.
With almost every stretch of the city being blocked by fallen trees, there was another threat that loomed with it. It was that of live wires that lay entangled with the trees, strewn about like matchsticks.
Termed as the Bay of Bengal's fiercest storm of this century, the super cyclone slammed into the coast of eastern India and Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon, bringing heavy gales and extensive flooding.
Winds of about 120mph (190km/h) caused storm surges of up to 5 metres (17ft), before moving northwards towards Kolkata.
Within a few hours, glass panes were smashed; houses shattered, buildings started shaking, rooftops were blown away like sheets of paper and chunks of concrete literally flew off as swirling winds cut a deadly path.
Much of the city of 15 million plunged into darkness as transformer stations exploded one after the other. Kolkata woke up to flooded streets with some cars window-deep in water.
The cyclone unleashed heavy rains and fierce winds, so powerful that many thought there was an earthquake. Owners of posh 40-45 storeyed high-rises in a South Kolkata society said they could feel their buildings swaying due to the ferocity of the storm. The nearby slums looked like they have been run over by a bulldozer.
Social networking sites were abuzz with vivid descriptions and pictures as well.
Actor-director Arindam Sil, who stays in Urbana on the 44th floor, said: "I have never seen such a cyclone. I'm very worried about the people of the Sunderbans with whom I work closely. They have no roof above their head and we are requesting people to donate tarpaulins. We need hundreds of them. It was nothing short of a massacre yesterday. I'm on the 44th floor and so high up, what we could really feel was just incredible and cannot be described in words. While standing in the middle of the apartment, I could feel it swaying (though it is a normal thing for high-rises to oscillate as otherwise, they would fall) but the sheer movement was very scary. And when I stood next to the window, I could see the cloudbursts and torrential rain lashing against the glass panes. With no wi-fi, no electricity, no landline working, no network, pitch dark outside and it was pitch dark inside as well. At that height, the whole experience was just incredible."
He also gave an idea about his society in general that saw a huge number of trees being uprooted, glass panes smashed, with the clubhouse rooftop flown away.
"In the middle of all this, the people of our society have been very helpful. They have rushed for help without wasting any time. But I would still say, we are safe by the grace of God. At least we have our houses intact and there's a roof above our head. The poor have been devastated. Now, there is a danger of those stepping out getting electrocuted. It's nothing short of a national disaster and we must forget all differences and stand-by each other in such a time of crisis," Sil added.
Madhurima Das, a resident of Jodhpur Park, recounts her experience and says she and her family members have had to remove 14-15 buckets of water from her bedrooms and dining space since they were flooded. "And all this at fourth floor of a five-storeyed house in Jodhpur Park. We had a shed on the terrace and there were tin sheets. Those flew away in a flash and landed on our car and did not harm anybody, fortunately. Our rooms are flooded, no power, no water, wires have been snapped and most of our glass panes are broken."
The extent of the structural damage caused by Cyclone Amphan is evident from visuals.
"Everything is destroyed. We don't know how many trees have been uprooted and how many electric poles have fallen. We are getting calls every minute. It is dangerous to venture out now because you never know which wire is lying where. Several high-tension wires have been snapped off. It is very risky. We urge everyone to stay at home. We don't know how much time all this will take for normalcy to return," said a top police officer.
As India battles Covid, 'Amphan' has been a kind of double whammy. The whole city seemed to be cut-off from civilization for those few hours. A day after, it is all over and gone but the pandemonium it unleashed was quite evident throughout Kolkata that bore the brutal brunt. The question is how long will this city take to get back to normal.