Heavy rain triggers landslips in Darjeeling; Aila weakens into depression and causes downpour
KOLKATA,26th May: The city and some districts, devastated by cyclone Aila on Monday, are yet to come to terms with the reality, even as the death toll shot up to 82. Fresh areas in the north were reeling under the impact of the cyclone’s after-effects on Tuesday. More than 2.2 million people have been affected.
Heavy and incessant rain in Darjeeling triggered landslips, which claimed nine lives. At least six people are reported missing. The highway connecting the hills to the rest of the State was blocked at several places.
“Cyclone Aila has weakened into a depression,” said G.C. Debnath, director, weather section, Regional Meteorological Centre. “It caused very heavy rainfall in north Bengal on Tuesday.”
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the situation.
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who is in Darjeeling, was in constant touch with Mr. Bhattacharjee. He visited three areas worst hit by the landslips and met the injured who were admitted to the district hospital. He appreciated the locals for their help in clearing the roads of debris.
While Kolkata limped back to normal, vast areas of the districts hit by the cyclonic storm on Monday were under water that gushed in through breaches in the embankments.
Army and Border Security Force personnel are assisting in rescue operations in Darjeeling and North and South 24 Parganas districts. Two MI-17 helicopters of the Air Force are airdropping relief materials and carrying out evacuations in inaccessible areas in South and North 24 Parganas.
More than 41,000 people, who have lost their homes, have been put up in 109 relief camps. Around 61,000 houses have been destroyed and 1.32 lakh partially damaged, Chief Secretary Ashok Mohan Chakraborty said here.
Certain areas, including Patharpratima in South 24 Parganas district, remain inaccessible.
The Chief Minister visited some of the worst-hit areas in the district. So did Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee later in the afternoon.
Mr. Bhattacharjee spoke to a section of those sheltered in the relief camps in the Nimpith area. Rescue and relief operations were being undertaken on a war-footing, he said. Attempts were being made to restore power and drinking water was also being supplied in pouches.
Ms. Banerjee suggested that a master plan be drawn up for flood and erosion control. She criticised the State government for not opening adequate relief camps.
Kolkata, much to the relief of its residents, woke up to clear skies in the morning. Though traffic was back on the roads, several stretches continue to remain blocked by uprooted trees.