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West Bengal cyclone death toll mounts to 82

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Flood of woes: Marooned villagers at Basanti in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district move to safer places on Tuesday.
Flood of woes: Marooned villagers at Basanti in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district move to safer places on Tuesday.

Ananya Dutta

Heavy rain triggers landslips in Darjeeling; Aila weakens into depression and causes downpour

KOLKATA: The city and some districts, devastated by cyclone Aila on Monday, are yet to come to terms with the reality, even as the death toll shot up to 82. Fresh areas in the north were reeling under the impact of the cyclone’s after-effects on Tuesday. More than 2.2 million people have been affected.

Heavy and incessant rain in Darjeeling triggered landslips, which claimed nine lives. At least six people are reported missing. The highway connecting the hills to the rest of the State was blocked at several places.

“Cyclone Aila has weakened into a depression,” said G.C. Debnath, director, weather section, Regional Meteorological Centre. “It caused very heavy rainfall in north Bengal on Tuesday.”

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the situation.

Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who is in Darjeeling, was in constant touch with Mr. Bhattacharjee. He visited three areas worst hit by the landslips and met the injured who were admitted to the district hospital. He appreciated the locals for their help in clearing the roads of debris.

While Kolkata limped back to normal, vast areas of the districts hit by the cyclonic storm on Monday were under water that gushed in through breaches in the embankments.

Army and Border Security Force personnel are assisting in rescue operations in Darjeeling and North and South 24 Parganas districts. Two MI-17 helicopters of the Air Force are airdropping relief materials and carrying out evacuations in inaccessible areas in South and North 24 Parganas.

More than 41,000 people, who have lost their homes, have been put up in 109 relief camps. Around 61,000 houses have been destroyed and 1.32 lakh partially damaged, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said here.

Certain areas, including Patharpratima in South 24 Parganas district, remain inaccessible.

The Chief Minister visited some of the worst-hit areas in the district. So did Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee later in the afternoon.

Mr. Bhattacharjee spoke to a section of those sheltered in the relief camps in the Nimpith area. Rescue and relief operations were being undertaken on a war-footing, he said. Attempts were being made to restore power and drinking water was also being supplied in pouches.

Ms. Banerjee suggested that a master plan be drawn up for flood and erosion control. She criticised the State government for not opening adequate relief camps.

Kolkata, much to the relief of its residents, woke up to clear skies in the morning. Though traffic was back on the roads, several stretches continue to remain blocked by uprooted trees.

63 dead in Bangladesh

Haroon Habib reports from Dhaka:

Cyclone Aila, which crossed over to Bangladesh, claimed more than 60 lives there, with more than a 100 missing as on Tuesday.

The cyclone wreaked havoc in Satkhira, a south-west district adjoining West Bengal, leaving 20 dead, said a senior official at the district control room. Packing winds of up to 110 kmph, the storm made landfall between midday and late night on Monday.

Thousands were shifted to emergency shelters along the south-west coastline. Tidal surges damaged nearly a dozen flood-control structures, marooning thousands.

Reports said many smaller islands such as Dhalchar, Char Kukrimukri, Char Patila, Char Hasina, Char Nizam and Char Kashpia in the Bay of Bengal were under 8 to 10 feet of water.

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