Centre accepts Mamata Banerjee’s request, sends 5 Army columns to help Kolkata
The Defence Ministry on Saturday decided to send five columns of Indian Army to help Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to restore infrastructure in state capital Kolkata. The Centre’s decision followed a request from the West Bengal government that appeared to have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the relief work needed in the state battered by cyclone Amphan.
In a string of tweets, the home department said the Bengal had mobilised just about everyone it could within the constraints of the lockdown in a unified command mode but it needed more help.
The National Disaster Response Force had earlier said they were putting together 10 more teams to help the state. The state already has 26 NDRF teams in the cyclone affected areas of Bengal.
“Based on the request from the government of West Bengal, Indian Army has provided five columns to assist the Kolkata City Civil Administration in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan,” a person familiar with the development told Hindustan Times. Each column has about 35 personnel.
“More than a hundred teams from multiple departments and bodies working for cutting fallen trees, which is the key to restoration of power in localities,” the home department tweeted.
It added that the Bengal government had also reached out to the railways, port authorities and the private sector to join the gigantic task ahead.
Cyclone Amphan, the most severe storm in the Bay of Bengal since the super cyclone of 1999, made landfall around 20km east of Sagar Island in the Sunderbans on Wednesday afternoon, cutting off road links, snapping telecommunications and power lines. It killed about 85 people in West Bengal including about 15 in state capital Kolkata.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had told Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited the state on Friday that the cyclone had, according to the government’s back of the envelope calculations, caused destruction worth Rs 1 lakh crore. PM Modi, who announced an interim relief assistance of Rs 1,000 crore, had praised Banerjee’s handling of the double whammy for Bengal, which is already battling to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
The Bengal government had earlier in the day asked the railways ministry to stop the Shramik Special trains from reaching the state till May 26, pointing that the district administration was already stretched to its limits
“As the district administrations are involved in relief and rehabilitation works, it will not be possible to receive special trains for the next few days. It is therefore requested that no train should be sent to West Bengal till May 26,” Bengal’s top bureaucrat Rajiva Sinha told the Railway Board in a letter.