Severe Cyclone Remal leaves trail of destruction in coastal Bengal
An NDRF personnel removes an uprooted tree from a road after the landfall of Cyclone Remal, in South 24-Parganas | PTI

Severe Cyclone Remal leaves trail of destruction in coastal Bengal

Cyclone Remal flattens fragile dwellings, uproots trees, and knocks down electric poles; one person injured after being hit by debris in Gosaba

Severe cyclone Remal made landfall between the coasts of West Bengal and Bangladesh with winds gusting up to 135 kmph, bringing heavy rain that flooded homes and farmland, and leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Extensive damage to infrastructure and property was seen across coastal areas of West Bengal on Monday. Roofs of thatched huts were blown away, trees uprooted and electric poles knocked down, causing significant disruption in various parts of the state, including Kolkata.

In Kolkata, one person died after concrete chunks fell on him, reported Reuters.

Heavy rain continued into Monday morning, flooding homes and farmlands. Waterlogging has been reported in several areas, compounding the misery of the affected residents.

Heavy rain hampering relief operations

Efforts to restore normalcy are underway, with emergency services working tirelessly to clear the debris and restore power in affected areas. However, the continuous heavy rains are hampering these operations.

The full extent of the damage is still being assessed, but initial reports suggest that it will take considerable time and effort to recover from this devastating natural disaster.

The state government has initiated relief measures, providing food, drinking water and medical assistance to the affected population. Authorities are urging residents to remain indoors and take necessary precautions as the heavy rains persist.

One injured

The landfall process began at 8.30 pm on Sunday (May 26) over the adjacent coasts of West Bengal and Bangladesh between Sagar Island and Khepupara, near the southwest of Mongla in the neighbouring country.

“Severe cyclonic storm Remal made landfall between Sagar Island in West Bengal and Khepupara in Bangladesh on Sunday night with wind speeds reaching up to 135 kmph,” the Indian meteorological office said.

More than one lakh people were evacuated from vulnerable areas in West Bengal before the cyclone struck. But the cyclone flattened fragile dwellings, uprooted trees, and knocked down electric poles. One person was injured after being hit by debris in the Gosaba area of the Sundarbans.

In Kolkata’s Bibir Bagan area, one person was injured when a wall collapsed due to heavy downpour.

Low-lying areas inundated

North and South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore districts reported widespread damage. News footage showed gigantic tidal waves crashing into a seawall in coastal resort town of Digha.

The vast coastline was blurred by thick sheets of rain as the cyclone made landfall, with surging waters sweeping fishing boats inland and inundating mud-and-thatch houses and farmlands in low-lying areas.

Reports from North and South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore districts stated roofs of thatched houses were blown away, electric poles twisted and trees uprooted in several areas. Streets and homes in low-lying areas adjoining Kolkata were inundated.

Arup Biswas, the minister for power in West Bengal government, told Reuters the power infrastructure was heavily battered. Reports of at least 356 uprooted electricity poles and damage to scores of transformers were received during the first hour of the landfall process, he said.

1.10 lakh people shifted

The West Bengal government shifted around 1.10 lakh people from coastal and vulnerable areas to cyclone shelters, schools and colleges by late Sunday afternoon.

Evacuation efforts focused on relocating people from South 24-Parganas district, especially Sagar Island, Sundarbans and Kakdwip, according to an official.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting to review the response and preparedness for the storm, while West Bengal Governor Dr CV Ananda Bose monitored the situation closely.

Evacuations in Kolkata

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged people to stay at home and assured them of her government’s support.

Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) authorities evacuated people from high-rises and dilapidated buildings, according to Mayor Firhad Hakim.

Hakim mentioned that 15,000 civic employees were mobilised to address post-cyclone scenarios, with equipment ready for quick removal of large uprooted trees.

Rain to continue on Monday

The cyclone caused light rain and wind in areas like Digha, Kakdwip, and Jaynagar, which is expected to intensify on Monday.

The India Meteorological Department’s eastern regional head Somnath Dutta indicated that southern Bengal districts would experience increasing wind and rainfall.

Fourteen National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams were deployed across districts in south Bengal, including Kolkata. The state government has readied SDRF teams and worked with the KMC.

Relief materials, including dry food and tarpaulins, have been dispatched to coastal areas, and quick response teams comprising trained civil defence volunteers and equipped vehicles are in place.

Air, rail, road transportation hit

Cyclone Remal has caused significant disruptions in air, rail and road transportation in Kolkata and other parts of southern Bengal.

The Eastern and South Eastern Railways cancelled some trains, and the Kolkata airport suspended flight operations for 21 hours, affecting 394 flights.

The Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata has also suspended operations.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ensured no loss of life or property at sea, with remote operating stations alerting vessels and ships. Nine disaster relief teams were on standby.

The Indian Navy has readied two ships equipped with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and medical supplies, with aviation assets on standby for rapid response. Specialised diving teams and flood relief teams have also been prepared for deployment.

One dead in Bangladesh

In neighbouring Bangladesh, tidal surges swept a youth away while several people were injured in southeastern Patuakhali.

Police said an overcrowded ferry carrying more than 50 passengers — double its capacity — sank near Mongla Port, the path of the storm, as people were fleeing to safety. However, the people were rescued with some injuries.

Earlier, authorities evacuated over 800,000 people from vulnerable areas of the country’s low-lying southwestern coastlines to shelters. Alongside people, domestic animals were also taken to designated cyclone shelters.

“The storm alongside the high tide turned terrifying,” a district administration official in-charge of a makeshift control room in Patuakhali told news agency PTI by phone.

Like Kolkata, flight operations at the Chittagong airport were suspended for eight hours, while the Chattogram Port Authority suspended all operations at the port.

(With agency inputs)

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