The death toll from Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal rose to 80 on Friday, as disaster management and civil authorities scrambled to restore normal life. Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to the state capital to take stock of the situation and announced advance interim assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for cyclone-hit state.
Amphan was the fiercest cyclone to hit West Bengal in a 100 years. Lakhs of people were rendered homeless as the cyclone cut a path of destruction through half-a-dozen districts of West Bengal, including state capital Kolkata, Wednesday night, blowing away shanties, uprooting thousands of trees and swamping low-lying areas.
Although electricity and mobile services were restored in some parts of the state capital and North and South 24 Parganas, the two worst-hit districts, large areas of the city continued to remain without power as electric poles and communication lines had been blown away by gusting winds.
Banerjee had on Thursday announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the deceased and a corpus fund of Rs 1,000 crore for preliminary restoration work in the affected areas.
"This is more than a national disaster. I have not seen such devastation in my life," Banerjee told reporters at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on Friday where she had gone to receive Modi.
"It will take some time to restore normalcy... It's a catastrophic disaster. Our officials and ministers are all working. Police are also working tirelessly. We are fighting three challenges there is lockdown going on, then there is COVID-19, and now this disaster. The villages have been entirely devastated," she said.
Teams of the NDRF and the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) have been working on a war-footing to clear the roads blocked by fallen trees. More than 5,000 trees, besides a few hundred electric posts, traffic signals and police kiosks have been uprooted in and around Kolkata, said a KMC official.
"Thousands of trees have been removed so far. But still, there is a lot more to be done. We are hopeful that within two-three days we would be able to normalise the situation. For the time being, we would request people to stay indoors," Kolkata Mayor and state minister Firhad Hakim said.