Seeks Rs. 1,000 crore from Centre to tackle the situation
Death toll goes up to 115
Life in Darjeeling returning to normality
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to declare the cyclone havoc in the State a “national calamity.” The death toll has gone up to 115 and it is feared that it may rise further.
Mr. Bhattacharjee sought Rs. 1,000 crore from the Centre’s National Calamity Contingency Fund to enable the State to tackle the situation.
The number of those affected has gone up to 53 lakhs, with 5.25 lakh houses fully or partially destroyed. Still vast areas remain waterlogged.
In a letter to Dr. Singh, Mr. Bhattacharjee said, “In view of the extraordinary and severe nature of the calamity, it is our view that the cyclone should be declared a national calamity.”
About 400 km of irrigation embankments breached in the Sunderbans areas of North and South 24 Parganas districts, while 100 km of embankments breached in other districts.
Mr. Bhattacharjee referred to his telephonic conversation with Dr. Singh on May 26, a day after the disaster struck, when the latter asked him to inform him of the amount of Central assistance required.
The total expenditure for relief and restoration might exceed Rs. 1,500 crore, Mr. Bhattacharjee said. The State government had sanctioned Rs. 47 crore so far. Rescue and relief operations continued in the worst affected areas of south Bengal even as the Army withdrew one column from the North and South 24 Parganas districts. Two MI-17 helicopters continued airdropping of relief material.
State Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen visited the district on Thursday to assess the situation.
Additional District Magistrate P. Zimba said all roads were cleared of debris.
On Thursday, officials carried out a preliminary assessment of the extent of damage to the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. “No dead tiger has been found,” said N.C. Bahuguna, Director of the reserve.
“The mangroves on the fringe areas of the forests have been badly damaged and five carcasses found,” he said. Two crocodiles, out of the 20 that went missing from the Bhagwatpur Crocodile Breeding Centre, were rescued, he added.