With Super Cyclone Amphan moving rapidly towards West Bengal and Odisha, Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, assuring the two leaders of all support and assistance from the Centre.
Cycone Amphan is slated to become the first super cyclone to hit India in 21 years and is expected to make landfall between West Bengal’s Digha in East Midnapore district and Bangladesh’s Hatiya Island on 20 May. West Bengal, which is already weathering the Covid-19 pandemic, is bracing for Amphan, some 21 years after Paradip witnessed a category 5 super cyclone that wreaked havoc in its wake.
On Tuesday evening, Sanjib Banerjee, DDGM, Regional Meteorology Centre, said during landfall, wind speed can reach up to 175 kmph and the gusty winds could further intensify to 185kmph. Losses to properties are expected and Kolkata will witness massive devastation as windspeed could reach up to 120 kmph. Banerjee advised citizens to stay indoors.
Wave surges of up to 6 metres in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts and 5 metres in East Midnapore are expected. Heavy rains are expected in Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts among others. A massive evacuation drive had been undertaken by the two state governments.
Residents of coastal belts have been moved to local cyclone centres. The Daily Guardian team reached a cyclone centre in Talsari, Odisha to take stock. Around 150 people from the nearby coastal belt were housed here. Though they had proper food and shelter, social distancing was compromised. Ganesh, a local resident, shared his experience in the shelter home but was apprehensive about the aftermath.
Ganesh said, “We had witnessed several storms in the past but this cyclone could change lives and livelihood forever.” Along the Digha coastline, the scene was very different. Empty streets and shuttered shops all around. Two shop-keepers were rustling up their goods. Shopkeeper Santanu was apprehensive like Ganesh. He said, “We are collecting material as much as we can, since tidal wave would wash out my shop and I am stocking as much as I can. Covid has already ruined our livelihoods and Amphan would only worsen it.”
Teams of NDRF has reached vulnerable places in North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah and East Mindapore districts of West Bengal. A total 41 NDRF teams have been deployed in Odisha and West Bengal. Talking about their preparedness, NDRF DG SN Pradhan has said 41 teams are ready in Bengal and Odisha with 24 teams in reserve.
Meanwhile, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba in which officers of NDMA, DG of NDRF, Union Home Secretary were involved. Reviewing the preparedness of states and Central agencies, the Cabinet Secretary asked the state governments to ensure timely and complete evacuation of people from low-lying areas in cyclone path and maintain adequate quantities of essential supplies such as food, drinking water and medicines etc. They were also advised that teams for road clearance and other restoration work be kept ready. The NCMC has announced that it would meet again soon to take stock of the situation.