Kolkata witnessed one of its most severe cyclones in many decades on Wednesday. The Alipore Meteorological office said that, under the impact of cyclone Amphan, the wind speed was 90 km per hour (kmph) on an average and over 110 kmph in Alipore. In many areas, the wind uprooted trees, damaged houses and snapped power lines.
Also read: Amphan cyclone tracker
The city, especially the green sections of south Kolkata, presented a macabre sight on Wednesday evening. Almost every road was blocked by fallen trees. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s administrator Firhad Hakim said they would assess the situation shortly, but it appeared that hundreds of trees had been uprooted. Mr. Hakim promised that city will be back on its feet in 48 hours.
Howling wind, slamming doors, shattering window panes and pouring rain created an eerie atmosphere in the city.
“It turned suddenly dark and a strong gust of wind broke the glasses of three windows. Both happened almost simultaneously. Water rushed in and in trying to stop that, I fell and hurt myself. It is a dark night,” said Dhrupadi Ghosh, a sociology researcher at Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi, who lives in Bhawanipur in south Kolkata. The meteorological centre said that though the average wind speed was about 90 kmph, it was much higher in some areas.
Electricity lines snapped as falling trees pulled them down. “I have not seen such wind ferocity even during Aila in 2006,” said a meteorological centre employee.
Roofs of many old houses collapsed. One family in Sealdah area told The Hindu that everyone was confined to one room after their roof was damaged. “We are a big family of 10 members. Water entered from all rooms, barring one, so we all moved to that one,” Anadi Roy said.
Also read: Kolkata hunkers down ahead of Amphan landfall
The municipal corporation evacuated residents from many old houses, Mr. Hakim said, in the face of resistance. “Some families think they will lose their right to live in their homes as some tenancies are disputed. It took us some effort to convince them that they can move back,” he added.
Around evening, this correspondent took a tour of the city and saw trees uprooted all the way from south to north. The worst affected was the leafy south Kolkata neighbourhood Southern Avenue next to the lake. Many giant trees on the stretch had fallen. Haradhan Adhikari, a caretaker a large house off Southern Avenue said wind was so strong the it plucked the trees with the roots. “Trees are collapsing one after the other,” he said.
Policeman Muzaffar Mondal of South Traffic Guard was on duty on arterial Red Road. “My job is to ensure that the road remains clear, as I remove the guard rails and road dividers which often are brought down road by the wind,” Mr. Mondal said. Some cars too were damaged. Small shanties, tea shops and roadside eating joints were blown away in many places. Many stranded people were resigned to spending the night sheltered in the basement of high-rise buildings.
He however had to leave around 7 pm when wind was bringing down more trees. Cars too were damaged as trees fell.
“We allowed them, bypassing COVID-19 social distancing norms, or they may have died,” said Paresh Haldar, caretaker of a complex in central Kolkata.
Beggars and vagabonds, however, continued to roam the streets. Many were seen picking up small mangoes that lay scattered all over the city. A KMC employee said most of the nearly 50,000 homeless people in the city had been moved to night shelters.