Kolkata,30 May: Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee here on Friday and reportedly updated him on the devastation caused by Cyclone Aila in West Bengal on Monday. A preliminary report was handed over to Mr. Mukherjee.
The two leaders, who met for the first time since Mr. Mukherjee took over the Finance Ministry, discussed relief operations underway and steps being taken to rehabilitate those rendered homeless. The Chief Minister has sought more than Rs. 1000 crore from the Natural Calamity Contingency Fund and suggested that in view of the severe nature of the cyclone, the disaster be declared a national calamity.
Mr. Mukherjee reportedly told Mr. Bhattacharjee that he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return to New Delhi. The State government will submit to the Centre early next month a detailed memorandum on the damage.
By its preliminary assessment the cost of restoration of breached embankments and rehabilitation of those rendered homeless is more than Rs. 1,500 crore.
The official death toll has risen to 117 with the death of two more injured in the landslips in Darjeeling hills, according to State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta. More than 5.3 million people have been affected and over seven lakh houses have been either destroyed or partially damaged. Several areas in the South and North 24 Parganas districts that were worst hit remain under water. Mr. Bhattacharjee will visit the Gosaba area of South 24 Parganas district on Sunday.