Aila toll 49, IAF airdropping food packets | india | Hindustan Times
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Aila toll 49, IAF airdropping food packets

india Updated: May 26, 2009 21:26 IST

Army began rescue and relief operations in cyclone-hit districts of West Bengal on Tuesday and IAF helicopters air-dropped food packets in worst-affected South and North 24 Parganas even as the statewide toll shot up to 49.

The highest number of 20 deaths due to cyclone Aila occurred in South 24 Parganas followed by nine in North 24 Parganas, six each in Kolkata and Howrah, three in Birbhum, two in Nadia and one each in Bankura, Cooch Behar and Malda, official sources said.

The cyclone, which spared Kolkata on Monday, has weakened and turned into a depression over North Bengal, Met officials said.

"The cyclone has weakened and lost much of its intensity on Monday's night and now has turned into a depression over the North Bengal, lying close to Siliguri on Tuesday," Regional Meteorological Centre director GC Debnath told PTI.

"It will further weaken and totally wither away by tonight," Debnath said.

Two columns of army, one each in Sandeshkhali and Kultali of North and South 24 Parganas districts, were carrying out rescue and relief operations, defence spokesman Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani said.

Six more army columns were on standby, he said.

Two MI-17 helicopters were air-dropping food packets in the hardest hit areas in South and North 24 Parganas districts, Upasani said.

The IAF has also kept its transport aircraft and helicopters of the Eastern fleet on standby for deployment at short notice.

A 200-member army contingent, including doctors were rescuing and evacuating people in the two Parganas districts, a defence statement said.

The relief provided included food and medicines.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee headed for Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas after taking over as Railway minister.

Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty held a meeting to review the situation with Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen, DGP Sujit Sarkar and Kolkata Police Commissioner Goutam Mohan Chakraborty.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who visited parts of cyclone battered South 24 Parganas instructed officials to initiate relief and rescue operation on a war-footing, Chakraborty said.

Finance Minister Ashim Das Gupta visited North 24 Parganas to assess the situation there.