West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday (May 22) said the state has suffered losses to the tune of ₹1 lakh crore due to cyclone Amphan that has claimed at least 80 lives and inflicted large-scale damage in North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly after it made landfall on May 20.
Banerjee, who conducted an aerial survey of some of the affected areas and also attended a review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Basirhat, North 24 Parganas, said that there is a need to work together at this hour of crisis. Modi has, meanwhile, announced an interim assistance of ₹1,000 crore for the state after the meeting.
However, Banerjee said that Modi didn’t clarify whether the assistance that he announced will be an advance or a package. “He announced ₹1,000 crore for the emergency fund, but didn’t clarify whether it’ll be advance or a package. He said he’ll decide later on, but he said it may be advance also. I said whatever you will give you decide, we’ll give you details,” she said.
“We’ve to help people so we’ve started relief work. I told the prime minister that we’ll get ₹53,000 crore from the central government regarding food subsidy, social schemes and central schemes, wherever our money is there. So I said you try to give some money to us so that we can work in this crisis,” the chief minister added.
Ahead of conducting the aerial survey of cyclone-hit areas, Banerjee contended the calamity is “more than a national disaster.” She said that it will take time to restore normalcy, with Amphan having ravaged at least seven to eight districts in Bengal, and adversely impacting 60 per cent of the state’s population.
“This is more than a national disaster. I have not seen such devastation in my life. Sixty per cent of people have been affected in West Bengal. More than six crore have been directly affected,” Banerjee told reporters at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport where she had gone to receive Modi.
“It will take some time to restore normalcy… It’s a catastrophe… severe disaster. Our officials and ministers are all working. Police are also working tirelessly. We are fighting three challenges — there is lockdown, then there is COVID-19, and now this disaster. The villages have been entirely devastated,” she noted.
Chief Minister Banerjee further said that all phone connections were snapped (after the cyclone struck). “My landline was working, but there was no connectivity in my cell phone. It was that bad…,” she said. About the process of normalcy restoration, she said the state has manpower and capacity to rise above the crisis.
“The districts have been totally damaged. All the embankments have been breached. Our challenge is to rescue (people) and restore operations here. We have our manpower and capacity. We will be able to do it successfully. Our municipal workers are also working on war footing. Dont worry, it (normalcy) will be restored,” she said.
(With inputs from agencies)