THE MAY 20 CYCLONE AMPHAN: A CHAOS IN WEST BENGAL - By Mehak Bhatiya

With the on-going vicious pandemic of COVID-19, Cyclone Amphan roared into West Bengal on 20th May 2020 around 20 kilometers east of Sagar Island within the Sundarbans, packing winds gusting to a top speed of 185 kmph, triggering torrential rain and leaving a trail of devastation across a good swath of the state, from deltaic regions to the urban neighbourhood of Kolkata. The Super Cyclonic storm Amphan, the foremost severe storm within the Bay of Bengal since the Odisha super cyclone of 1999, made landfall between 3.30 pm and 5.30 pm. It brought a storm surge and made an enormous impact on West Bengal, worse than the damaging done by pandemic. The Bangladesh officials were peculiarly concerned about the damage caused to the Sundarbans, a UNESCO world heritage site popular for its mangrove forest and tiger population, which they said bore the brunt of the large cyclone.

The Sundarbans region is home to several rare animals, including Bengal tigers. The loss is going to be at three levels because the storm was tremendous- the loss to life and property, loss to the basic structure, which can take many months to return to normalcy and lastly loss to livelihoods since the high level of saline water intrusion and large- scale inundation.

REPERCUSSIONS

Mamta Banerjee in an interview said that the state doesn't skill to handle it since almost everything is destroyed within the coastal villages of the state.

10- 12 people have reportedly died and 80 are reported till now in West Bengal.

Reports Embankment breaks from Sagar Island, Ramganga, Hingalganj, and a couple of other places have come.In Odisha, two people have died including a two- month old baby who died of a collapsing wall.

In Bangladesh, 6 deaths are confirmed and almost three million people were left without power.

About 224.6 millimeters of rain fell from early Wednesday and finishes up to 113 kmph lashed Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal.

As per the videos shared on social media showed electricity transformers sparking and exploding within the wild weather. It's also been said that 5,500 houses were damaged in one West Bengal district.

Reports said one person each died in Minakha and Basirhat of North 24 Parganas district and a 3rd in Howrah.

A woman drowned when she had gone for fishing in Kendrapara district, Odisha.


THE NDRF RELIEF

The National Disaster Response Fund has disbursed the relief of ₹1,000 crore and ₹500 crores to West Bengal and Odisha, respectively, within the wake of the damage and destruction caused by Cyclone Amphan. Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India during his visit to the 2 States on May 22, had announced an "advance assistance" of ₹1,500 crores. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) sent an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) on May 23 to assess the damage caused by the states. After this, on the advice of the MHA, the Finance Ministry asked the Federal Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to credit the quantity to the accounts of West Bengal and Odisha on grounds of "relief necessitated by natural calamity". West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier stated that the State had suffered 10 times the damage envisaged within the ₹1,000 crore package announced by the Prime Minister as 70% of the population was affected. Approximately quite 80 deaths are reported thus far.The NDRF is maintained under accounts of the Finance Ministry and it already has ₹22,070 crores allocated thereto within the fiscal year 2020-21. In 2019-20, the entire amount released under the NDRF was ₹14,108.58 crore, and therefore the funds visited eight States — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Rajasthan (for various natural calamities).

As per Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the NDRF supplements the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) just in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds aren't available within the SDRF. The States need to submit utilization certificates, pending which no future allocation is formed.

The SDRF is that the primary fund available with State governments to satisfy the expenses of relief operations of an instantaneous nature, for a variety of specified disasters. The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF allocation for general category States and Union Territories, and 90% for special category States (northeast States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir).

NCMC MEETS

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, met on May 25 to debate the relief and restoration measures in West Bengal. The MHA issues a press release stating that while Telecom connectivity has been restored in most areas, damages to the local power distribution network has affected the restoration of complete supply in some areas. It also said that Central agencies are deployed in these efforts with teams from neighbouring States.


The Army has been deployed in Kolkata, to assist in perform road clearances with teams of NDRF, and therefore the government post the cyclone. The State government's Home Department posted a message on social media stating that the Railways, the Kolkata Port, and therefore the private sector have also been requested to provide teams and equipment.


The MHA stated that Cabinet Secretary also suggested that the West Bengal Government may indicate their additional requirements if any and directed officers of Central Ministries/ Agencies to figure in close coordination with the government to supply all required assistance swiftly. An IMCT is required to go to the affected States to assess the damage soon.


HOW INDIVIDUALS CAN HELP?


The Cyclone Amphal has caused great destruction in rural and concrete areas in both West Bengal and Odisha. Reports have said that nearly 80 lives have been lost in West Bengal and a couple of in Odisha. Thatched houses, small shops, livestock, trees, and crops have been damaged in all the areas affected in both the States. As seen in all the cases of disasters so far, it is families from vulnerable communities that have suffered the most, many of them have seen their homes and livelihoods destroyed ahead of their own eyes. With the danger of COVID19 still coming along large, Cyclone Amphan has caused untold sufferings for the migrants who were returning home especially since rail and road traffic services have been suspended.

We as the responsible citizens of India need to come along together and help victims of both these disasters. You can view various relief funds sites, NGOs, etc. on the internet, social media platforms, newspapers that help people in such helpless situations and provide a small token of donation. Now we all need to break through and help the communities recover from the impact of the Cyclone Amphan and continue and cope with the challenges of COVID-19 simultaneously. My fellow mates, one small donation of yours can help a lot of people in need during these ongoing crises. So, this message is to all the citizens of India to place a foot out and help positively.

20 views