Kolkata, May 23, 2020: Bengal has requested Army support for immediate restoration of essential infrastructure and services devastated by Cyclone Amphan, one of the worst storms to have formed over the Bay of Bengal in recent years.
In a series of tweets this evening, the Home Department called for mobilisation of "maximum strength... on 24x7 basis" for essential services like drinking water, sanitation and power supply, NDTV reported.
The state also asked for aid from the Railways and the private sector in providing manpower and equipment, and said teams were already at work clearing the remains of thousands of trees and buildings felled and destroyed as heavy rain and winds of up to 185 km per hour pummelled coastal Bengal.
"Government of West Bengal mobilises maximum strength in unified command mode on 24x7 basis for immediate restoration of essential infrastructure and services. Army support has been called for and NDRF and SDRF teams deployed," the Home Department said.
"Railways, ports and private sector too requested to supply teams and equipment," the tweet said, adding, "Drinking water and drainage infrastructure getting restored fast. PHE (Public Health Engineering department) asked to supply water pouches... generators being hired where necessary. More than a hundred teams... working to remove fallen trees".
The Home Department also said Bengal Police had been put on alert to deal with any issues and efforts were being made to increase available manpower despite significant resources being devoted to the coronavirus outbreak.
The announcement came after protests in several parts of Kolkata and neighbouring districts over power and water problems. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called for patience while the state works to restore normalcy.
Cyclone Amphan ripped through coastal Bengal on Wednesday, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake that Ms Banerjee valued at Rs 1 lakh crore.
At least 72 people were killed by Amphan, which also hit parts of Odisha and left both states planning evacuation and relief efforts while dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Kolkata airport, which had been shut, was left flooded and many structures within damaged. Amphan also ripped through Bengal’s coastal districts of North and South 24 Paraganas with heavy rain and windstorm blowing away thatched houses, uprooting trees, electric poles and flooding low-lying areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an aerial survey of affected regions yesterday, alongside Ms Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, after which he announced assistance worth Rs 1,000 crore for Bengal and Rs 500 crore for Odisha.
In a sign the focus, for now, may be on relief and rehabilitation efforts, Mr Dhankhar, whose interactions with the Chief Minister are usually acrimonious, today praised her decision to seek the Army’s support.
"A good move (by) Mamata Banerjee to seek support and assistance of Army. These are trying time(s) and (I) appeal to people to keep calm. Authorities must restore connectivity, electricity and other services at the earliest," the Governor’s tweet read.
Amphan was the worst cyclone in Bengal in 283 years. In 1737, the Great Bengal Cyclone killed an estimated 300,000 people. In 1999, Odisha was hit by a super cyclone that left nearly 10,000 dead