Large parts of cyclone-hit Kolkata still without power, water

May 27th, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 27 (IANS) For the third day running after Cyclone Aila swept the city with full fury, large parts of the metropolis continued to remain without water and power Wednesday as irate residents put up road blockades and held protests before utility offices.
From Barasat in the northern suburb to Behala and Tollygunge in the south, people complained of lack of basic amenities, as electric wires dangled dangerously from light posts, telephone cables remained snapped and snapped overhead tram wires hung precariously alongside tracks.

Tram services continued to be suspended, online and ATM networks of banks, mobile telephony and broadband services suffered.

Cyclone Aila turned city life topsy-turvy Monday causing seven deaths and leaving a trail of destruction with most of the major thoroughfares clogged by 1,200 uprooted trees and extensive areas going under water.

After facing flak for not managing to remove the road bottlenecks, civic authorities finally succeeded in clearing most of the trees and rubble Tuesday night as vehicular traffic became normal Wednesday.

But the other services were far from normal.

“We could not sleep since Monday night with power supply yet to be restored even after 48 hours. My one-year-old granddaughter is in a bad state after spending two sleepless nights,” said Anima Ghatak of Bijoygarh in south Kolkata.

“We cannot watch television, and operate water pumps. Water supply continues to be disrupted. Telephone lines are also down. Electricity was restored Tuesday night after 24 hours. But from early morning today (Wednesday) again we don’t have power,” said Urmi Chattterjee of Lake Gardens in the southern part of the city.

Debeshar Dey of Barasat said: “We got electricity for only 10 hours Tuesday night after remaning in the dark since Monday. Again the supply has remain disrupted since Wednesday morning. We have not got any water supply since Monday noon. One has to queue up before the tubewells for hours for a pail of water.”

Sukhendu Sekahr Roy, a Congress leader residing at the upscale south Kolkata locality of Jodhpur Park, said: “We had to live without electricity for 44 hours. Even the power utility CESC could not be contacted. The entire administration seems to have collapsed.”

Bleary-eyed people vented their frustration by obstructing several city roads intermittently since Tuesday. There were protest demonstrations before offices of the CESC and the civic authorities.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted that people were facing a lot of problems.

“In many areas there is no water. Electricity supply is disrupted in the northern and southern suburbs. We are trying our best. I asked CESC to increase their manpower including engineers. They have done that partially. But more needs to be done,” Bhattacharjee told mediapersons at the state secretariat.

“CESC does not have the experience to tackle such an emergency. So it is taking more time,” he said.

Bhattacharjee also termed people’s anger as natural. “Some people are agitated. That’s natural. Raods have been blocked. But I will only appeal to them to ensure that restoration work is not affected. We have to solve the problems first.”

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress chief and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee ripped apart the state government for its failure to restore normalcy even three days after Aila hit the city.

“The government is virtually non-existent. They don’t have any disaster management infrastructure,” she said and instructed Leader of Opposition Partha Chattopadhyay to talk to CESC officials.

On road blockades, she said: “Political parties have not organised such agitations. People have hit the streets spontaneously. You have to respect their feelings.”

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