Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Friday travel to West Bengal and Odisha to take stock of the situation in the wake of cyclone Amphan wreaking havoc in the two states, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier on Thursday said she would ask Modi to visit the state and witness the devastation for himself.
“He will conduct aerial surveys and take part in review meetings, where aspects of relief and rehabilitation will be discussed," the PMO said in a tweet on Thursday.
Cyclone Amphan has left 72 people dead and thousands homeless in West Bengal, battering several parts of the state and washing away bridges and swamping low-lying areas. It also wreaked havoc in Odisha damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm has weakened and moved to Bangladesh, said the India Meterological Department (IMD).
The fiercest cyclone to hit Bengal in 100 years destroyed mud houses and crops, and uprooted trees and electric poles. It also wreaked havoc in Odisha damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts. The Odisha government officials estimated that the cyclone has affected around 44.8 lakh people in the state.
“So far as per the reports we have received, 72 people have died in the state due to Cyclone Amphan. Two districts -- North and South 24 Pargana -- are completely devastated. We have to rebuild those districts from scratch. I would urge the Central government to extend all help to the state,” said Banerjee after conducting a review meeting with officials.
“I will visit the affected areas very soon. The restoration work will start soon. A large part of North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata are facing massive power cut since last evening. Even telephone and mobile connections are down,” she said.
“I have never witnessed such a fierce cyclone and destruction in my life. I would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and visit Cyclone Amphan-affected areas,” she said, also announcing a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for the family members of each of the deceased.
Modi's first visit outside Delhi since lockdown
This will be Modi’s first visit outside the national capital after the coronavirus lockdown was imposed on the midnight of March 24.
Sources in the government said Modi will first reach Bengal in the morning and then go to Odisha in the afternoon.
Besides North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata, the districts of East Midnapore and Howrah were the worst hit in Bengal as portions of several dilapidated buildings came crashing down in several places.
The death toll included 17 from North 24 Parganas, 15 from Kolkata, 10 from Basirhat and four from the South 24 Parganas-Sunderban region, officials said.
Senior officials of the state government said it was too early to estimate the exact death toll or damage to property as the worst hit areas were still not accessible.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Modi said no stone will be left unturned in helping those affected by cyclone Amphan.
“Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan,” he tweeted.
Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal. Praying for the well-being of the people of the state. Efforts are on to ensure normalcy.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 21, 2020
Modi said National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are working in the cyclone-affected parts. “Top officials are closely monitoring the situation and also working in close coordination with the West Bengal government. No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected,” he added.
Modi said his thoughts are also with the people of Odisha as the state bravely battles the effects of the cyclone. He said authorities are working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance to those affected. "I pray that the situation normalises at the earliest," he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Banjerjee and assured them of all central help.
The IMD said the cyclone has weakened significantly and moved to Bangladesh where 10 people have been killed.
Bengal districts 'devastated'
Banerjee, who has been monitoring the situation at state secretariat Nabanna since Tuesday night, said the impact of Amphan was "worse than coronavirus".
Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said more than 14 lakh people in the city are living without electricity since Wednesday night. "The entire city has been devastated. Around 4,000 trees have been uprooted in Kolkata. We are short of staff due to the Lockdown. It will take some time to restore normalcy," he said.
Packing heavy rain and winds with speeds of up to 190 kmph, the cyclone barrelled through coastal districts of North and South 24 Parganas of Bengal and Odisha on Wednesday unleashing copious rain and windstorm.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) reviewed the rescue and relief operations in Bengal and Odisha at a meeting in Delhi and was told that minimal loss of lives was reported due to accurate forecast by the IMD and timely deployment of NDRF troops.
Headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, the NCMC was told by the chief secretaries of the two states that timely and accurate forecast by the IMD and advance deployment of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) facilitated in evacuation of about five lakh people in West Bengal and about two lakh in Odisha.
This has resulted in minimal loss of human lives, considering the fact that the intensity of the Amphan was next only to that of the super cyclone that struck Odisha in 1999 causing large scale devastation, an official statement said in Delhi.
The NDRF is moving additional teams to West Bengal to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata.
The Food Corporation of India will also ensure adequate availability of food grains, especially rice, to West Bengal so that marooned people are provided immediate sustenance.
The Power Ministry and Department of Telecommunications will also assist in the early restoration of services in both the states.
The Railways, which suffered major damages to its infrastructure, is in the process of restarting its operations at the earliest, the statement said.
The Bengal government said there were major damages to agriculture, power and telecommunication facilities in the affected areas. Odisha said the damages have been mainly limited to agriculture.
(With inputs from PTI)