Kolkata: Taking lessons from the devastation of last year’s cyclone Amphan, the army has been put on high alert in West Bengal ahead of cyclone Yaas hitting the state. The cyclone is expected to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon off the coasts of Balasore in Odisha, resulting in high winds with the speed of above 150 km per hour in the two districts of East Medinipore and South 24 Parganas.
On Tuesday, administrative work was brushed up at the state secretariat at the Nabanna building in Howrah. Though the epicentre of the severe cyclone is towards the Odisha coast, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee said that the landfall of the cyclone might be bigger than last year’s Amphan when the wind gusting speed was at 185kmph.
About 4,000 rescue centres have been made operational in the state and about a million people are being shifted to the camps. Nearly 20 districts will be affected by the cyclone while most of the impact is expected to be borne by North and South 24 Parganas districts along with East Medinipore. Heavy rain is also forecast in Howrah, Hooghly, West Medinipore, West Burdwan, East Burdwan, Nadia, Bankura, Birbhum, Purulia, Jhargram, and Murshidabad. Rain is also slated to hit Maldah North, South Dinajpur, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.
So far, about 51 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been prepared to lead the relief and rescue work in the aftermath of the cyclone.
To tackle electricity worries, hospitals have been linked with generators to keep up uninterrupted medical and electric supply. District administrations have also informed that they have sufficient quantity of drugs and medicines at their disposal before the cyclone. Ferry services in the entire Sundarban belt have been closed from Tuesday and boats have been towed with ropes at the banks. Railway services in South and South East Railway have been suspended as well.
All kind of sea going vessels have been asked not to venture out in the seas during the cyclone and till the Met office directs them to do so. The fisherfolks have been told not to venture out to rivers while coastal areas have been closed for tourists. Right from Nabanna to block levels, control rooms have been opened to manage the natural disaster.
Interestingly, while the central government has sanctioned Rs 600 crores to organise relief and rescue measures for Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal has been assured of only Rs 400 crores. The amount was fixed in a virtual meeting with the Union Home Minister. When West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned Home Minister Amit Shah about the amount, he cited scientific basis as the yardstick for allocating the money.
The West Bengal Chief Minister has also informed that 1,000 technicians of electricity boards will be prepared and tagged with ULB authorities to restore electric supply after the cyclone. Private telecom players have also prepared a team of 450 technicians to repair snags so that the dire situation from last year’s Amphan is not repeated.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Suryakanta Mishra has expressed anguish at the reports of prospect of severity of the cyclone and has urged party workers to work and stand beside the common people and help the poor relocate along with their identification papers and other important documents. Mishra has called all to rise above partisan interests and to coordinate in this regard with the elected bodies and the local administration.