Ahead of conducting an aerial survey of cyclone-hit areas in West Bengal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday contended that the calamity, which has left at least 80 dead, is “more than a national disaster”.
Banerjee said it will take time to restore normalcy, with cyclone ”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.
The chief minister said that she will hold an administrative meeting with Modi at Basirhat in North 24 Parganas district, following the aerial survey.
She also said that an initial report on the scale of destruction caused by the cyclone has been prepared and it would be handed over to the prime minister.
“We are not saying anything on it (the devastation caused by the cyclone). The chief secretary has prepared a report which will be handed over to the PM… I hope he will consider looking into it,” the CM said.
Banerjee said a map of areas, which she would be surveying along with the PM, has been prepared by her government officials.
“We will cover Rajarhat, Bhangar, Minakha, Hashnabar, Sandeshkhali 1 and 2, Gosaba, Hindolganj, Kultuli. Kakdwip, Patharpratima, Mathurapur 2, Diamond Harbour and Falta. This will take an hour or so,” she explained.
The CM also said she will be visiting some of these places again on Saturday.
“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.
Talking more about the process of normalcy restoration in Bengal, Banerjee 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.
Banerjee further said President Ram Nath Kovind called her to enquire about the situation in the state.
“I sincerely thank the Honble President of India @rashtrapatibhvn Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji, for personally calling me to convey his support and concerns for the people of Bengal in this unprecedented time of crisis because of the cyclone. We are extremely grateful, Sir,” she tweeted later in the day.
Banerjee noted that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has also offered help.
“Dear @Naveen_Odisha Ji, extremely grateful for the kind words in these unprecedented times. As a fellow chief minister trying to restore the state post the cyclone, this is extremely warming,” the chief minister added.