KOLKATA/BHUBANESWAR: As Cyclone

Amphan

fizzled out in Bangladesh after one final assault, West Bengal was on Thursday left counting its dead — up from 12 to 72 overnight, including 15 in Kolkata — and scouring through the debris of devastation that CM Mamata Banerjee said would require days to assess and massive central financial assistance to salvage and rebuild.

Many of the casualties during the cyclone’s nine-hour march through seven south Bengal districts on Wednesday were either caused by electrocution or houses collapsing.

Kolkata woke up to the macabre sight of 11 bodies floating down inundated streets. South 24-Parganas, which bore the brunt of Amphan’s impact, reported 12 deaths. Hundreds of houses were destroyed and embankments were breached at many places, leaving scores of villages swimming in misery. Rivers overran farmlands throughout the Sunderbans, damaging acres and acres of standing crops. The damage, still being assessed, is believed to be more extensive than what Cyclone Aila had caused 11 years ago.

North 24-Parganas accounted for 27 deaths. Roads went under water and trees blocked roads, including NH-35, restricting the movement of relief workers heading out to the affected zones. More than 88,000 hectares of paddy and one lakh hectares each of vegetable and sesame crops may have been lost statewide, officials said.

“No stone will be left unturned in helping the affected. Top officials are closely monitoring the situation and working in close coordination with the Bengal government,” PM Modi tweeted even as the state government created a Rs 1,000-crore fund to repair damaged embankments and houses and restore water supply to the affected areas.

NDRF teams are working in the cyclone affected parts. Top officials are closely monitoring the situation and also w… https://t.co/hkeg2SAPx3

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1590049237000

Mamata announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased.

The PMO later announced that Modi would visit Bengal and Odisha on Friday to take stock and discuss relief and rehabilitation measures with the CMs of both states. The PM is scheduled to reach Kolkata at 10.45am and set out for an aerial survey along with Mamata. They are scheduled to hold a meeting before Modi flies out to Bhubaneswar in the afternoon.

While apprising Union home minister Amit Shah of the situation during their second conversation in as many days, Mamata sought immediate assistance from the Centre’s disaster relief fund. “I told him (Shah) that we need the money immediately… cannot wait 500 days. I hope he will respond. But I cannot be sure till assistance actually comes,” she said.

The CM said restoring communication and power — many neighbourhoods of Kolkata and North and South 24-Parganas were without electricity and internet till late on Thursday — was the immediate priority. “We are waiting for the skies to clear. Roads are blocked by uprooted trees and there is no electricity in many areas.”

Mamata said she was still shaken by the thought of the “terrifying” experience of seeing the cyclone rage from the 14th floor of Nabanna, the state secretariat. “When I went up to my room on the 14th floor, I found it shaking. Several glass windows were broken,” she said, adding that the disaster could not have come at a worse time for Bengal. “We are also having to deal with the pandemic, migrant labourers’ problems and the rising cost of quarantining people.”

A slice of heritage was lost, too. The slender spire of the 205-year-old St Andrew’s Church in Kolkata, an institution that has survived two world wars, the Partition and several cyclones, lost its 100kg black weathercock to Amphan’s fury.

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