Cyclone Amphan unleashes fury
The trail of destruction Cyclone Amphan left behind as it hit Kolkata with wind speed gusting up to 130 kph on Wednesday amid the Covid-19 pandemic is the worst the city has witnessed for a long time, residents said.Updated: May 22, 2020 05:22 IST
The trail of destruction Cyclone Amphan left behind as it hit Kolkata with wind speed gusting up to 130 kph on Wednesday amid the Covid-19 pandemic is the worst the city has witnessed for a long time, residents said.
The cyclone was the most severe in over a decade and plunged parts of the city into darkness as it felled electricity poles, trees, upturned cars and flooded the Kolkata airport as well as several other neighbourhoods. It was designated a super cyclone even as Amphan weakened after making landfall between and Bangladesh with winds that gusted up to 185 kph.
“After every calamity, we tend to compare it with something in the past. We have seen Cyclone Aila in 2009 and Cyclone Bulbul in 2019. But Amphan was like hell. I have not seen anything of this sort in my life. It was as if the storm was whistling and bulldozing its way through,” said Bibhutibhusan Dey, a 70-year-old Kolkata resident.
Cyclone Aila and Bulbul left 339 and 41 people dead. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said at least 72 people were killed in her state alone after Amphan tore into it.
Many said they felt as if an earthquake has struck the city when the cyclone battered it with their buildings swaying. Residents of highrises felt the cyclone impact more intensely in eastern Kolkata. A part of Kolkata still has large open areas but Amphan passed closer through its eastern parts.
“We felt as if the entire building was swaying. Initially we thought it was an earthquake as the cyclone was raging outside... It was really scary,” said Arpita Pal, who lives on the 10th floor of a highrise.
Bengali film actor Ankush Hazra echoed the feeling on social media and shared visuals of his damaged apartment. “Earthquake or Cyclone?” he wrote on Instagram.
Kolkata’s streets and lanes were littered with broken glasses of shattered window panes, damaged vehicles trapped under unrooted trees, lamp posts, and traffic signals on Thursday morning. Several houses were also damaged when uprooted trees fell on them.
A Kolkata Municipal Corporation official said they were getting dozens of calls every second at their control room. “Hundreds of trees, lamp posts, and traffic signals have been uprooted. Several roads have been blocked. Power lines, cable wires, and telephone wires have snapped. The city is in a mess.”
Netizens uploaded pictures and videos of exploding transformers, falling trees, tin roofs, and street-hoardings amid the raging storm on social networking sites. “I saw at least two transformers exploding. It was like fireworks on Diwali night. The entire area has been plunged into the darkness since. No electronic gadgets are working. I could only charge one mobile with a power bank,” said Arindam Biswas, a resident of Kolkata’s Baghajatin.
The city had virtually come to standstill as many roads remained blocked while there was hardly any mobile connectivity amid the closure of shops and markets. “It was a real lockdown and everyone maintained social distancing. No going out. No mobile phones either,” said Arindam Sen, a resident of the Madurdaha area.
The situation in the slums was even worse as thousands of shanties were badly damaged. Their roofs and walls gave way in the face of the storm and intense rain and forced slum dwellers to either take shelter in nearby schools or in some concrete houses.
“We never thought the storm would be so intense. The civic officials told us to move to the nearby school building. But as we had seen Aila and Bulbul, we thought Amphan would be the same or a little more intensity. But when it hit, we had nowhere to go. The school was too far. We decided to take shelter in a nearby two-storeyed house,” said Sheetal, who works as a maid and lives in a shanty near Anandapur in east Kolkata.
Municipal authorities said they were yet to assess the damage.
“The entire Nabanna building (state secretariat building) was swaying it seemed. Once I tried to enter my office on the 14th floor. I couldn’t. The window panes were shaking and vibrating as if they would freak anytime. I have never witnessed such a calamity,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
“It was a virus in the sky. Meteorologists had said it would hit a certain point and that it would take around 4 hours to pass. But it was nearly 400 km wide and carried on its devastation for several hours. It could be a subject of research. I have never seen such a calamity,” said Banerjee