NDRF personnel clearing a road blocked by uprooted trees in Kolkata
KOLKATA/KAKDWIP: Responding to an SOS from Bengal, the Centre on Saturday deployed five columns of the Army and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to help state and civic agencies get cyclone-ravaged Kolkata back on its feet even as anger and frustration boiled over in neighbourhoods still without electricity and water.
The first signs of a joint central-state response came barely hours after the state home department tweeted that assistance would be required along with a gargantuan effort to restore essential infrastructure and services snapped by cyclone Amphan on Wednesday.
Five columns of the Kumaon Regiment were deployed along with road-clearing equipment like payloaders and bulldozers on Southern Avenue and in Tollygunge, Ballygunge, Rajarhat, New Town and Behala, where hundreds of trees were uprooted and roads blocked as Amphan coursed through the city.
The state’s appeal and the Centre’s quick response came amid continuing protests in several pockets of the city over the blackout and dry taps since Wednesday. Officials said trees felled by the severe cyclonic storm needed to be removed from the roads first for power and telecom connectivity to be restored.
C M Mamata Banerjee stepped in to soothe frayed tempers, appealing to residents of various localities to bear with state agencies for a few days. “Behead me if you want. But try to appreciate the difficulties. We are not sitting idle. A total of 225 teams are working in Kolkata. I understand your problem. I have spoken to CESC’s Sanjiv Goenka. It is a private organisation and not under us. It is suffering a manpower shortage because of the lockdown. They need skilled manpower, not just workers,” she said at Nabanna, the state secretariat.
All state agencies are facing a staff crunch, she said, adding: “We don’t have enough people to cut trees. I have told the KMC and Kolkata police to engage locals.”
Amphan affected 6 crore out of Bengal’s 10-crore population, the CM said during a visit to Kakdwip in South 24-Parganas earlier in the day. She said the Rs 1,000-crore central “advance assistance” was “too little” given that the damage caused was “much more than a national disaster”.