West Bengal cyclone toll reaches 100, situation grim (Roundup)

May 28th, 2009 - 12:21 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 27 (IANS) The death count in floods triggered by Cyclone Aila reached 100 in West Bengal Wednesday as the Sunderbans faced a severe drinking water crisis and lack of civic amenities led to protests in Kolkata.
Two days after the cyclone pummeled coastal areas of the state, uprooting trees, snapping power cables and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, vast areas remained submerged affecting 4.6 million people as victims complained of lack of relief.

Darjeeling in the northern-most tip of the state and South 24 Parganas in the southern extreme each recorded 26 deaths, while 16 died in North 24 Parganas, and five in Kolkata. Nine people lost their lives in Howrah, five in Hooghly, four in Nadia, three in Murshidabad, two in Birbhum and one each in Cooch Behar, Malda, East Midnapore and Bakura.

The army conducted relief operations in some blocks of Sundarbans falling under South 24 Parganas district, which has been worst hit in the calamity.

Around 152,000 houses have collapsed, and 89,000 more partially damaged, while 500 km of embankment got breached as flood fury raged in 1.171 mouzas affecting nearly 800,000 people in the district.

Putrid smell of animal carcasses filled the air, and saline water from the sea got mixed with river water to inundate villages, leading to a serious drinking water crisis in Patharpratima, Gosaba, Roydighi, Kultali, Namkhana, Kakdweep, Sagar and Basanti blocks in Sundarbans. There were some reports of a diarrhea breakout, but there was no official confirmation.

Victims complained that relief had not reached them, and the airdropped food packets mostly went waste.

For the third day, large parts of the metropolis remained without water and power 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.

“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.

VIP Nagar in the eastern fringes of the city was under water, with the residents apprehensive of overflowing water of a canal getting mixed with drinking water.

Similar was the story in parts of Behala in the southern outskirts.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted that people were facing a lot of problems in the city.

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

With the recovery of four more bodies, the toll in the landslides and floods in the state’s hill district of Darjeeling rose to 26, while 40 people have been injured, while some were still missing.

The army, which had been called in to carry out the rescue operations in different parts of the hills, was withdrawn Wednesday, but Seema Sashastra Bal troopers were still on duty.

Two teams of the National Disaster Management Group have also been sent to Darjeeling to clear the roads, Bhattacharjee said in Kolkata.

Assailing the state government for not “doing its duty for the cyclone victims, Railways minister Mamata Banerjee said: “It seems no government exists in this state”.

She said though the weather has improved, the situation continued to be grim.

Banerjee said 100,000 people have been left stranded between the Ichamati and Kalindi rivers in North 24 Parganas district.

“They are in this situation from Monday. They have not got any relief. They are totally disconnected,” she said, adding she was contacting the army for airdropping food.

Banerjee said Kumirmari under Sundarbans, and five mouzas (subdivisions) in Mathurapur II were submerged, while people in parts of Hooghly and Midnapore (East) were in a miserable situation, as they had got no relief.

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