Mamata conducts aerial survey of cyclone-hit areas; says restoration work in full swing

Kolkata, May 23 (PTI) After protests in several cyclone-affected areas of West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday urged the people to have patience as the administration was working tirelessly to restore water and power supply.

She also conducted an aerial survey of the cyclone-affected areas.

She said around 1,000 teams were employed in the restoration process in the state, besides the police, health workers, firefighters, agricultural workers and disaster management personnel.

'This is huge disaster. Our teams are working very seriously. At least 1,000 teams are working in the state. Along with them local youths are also working.

'The police besides maintaining lockdown and law and order, are also helping in the restoration process,' Banerjee said at the state secretariat in the evening. Cyclone Amphan has claimed 86 lives in West Bengal and caused havoc in at least 14 districts mainly in South 24 Parganas, Kolkata, North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts.

At least 225 teams will be working the whole night to clear the roads.

'In the city itself, 115 teams are working. NDRF, SDRF, CESC, state electricity and police are working in the state... Remember that we are not sleeping,' she said.

'There are a few areas in Kolkata where there is no electricity hampering water supply. I have called up the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) at least 10 times. Even I do not have proper phone network... I cannot watch television at home.

'People should understand the ground reality and have patience. Some of you have started negative campaigning against the government. This is not the time to do politics. Cyclone Amphan is more than a national disaster and people should understand the ground reality and cooperate,' Banerjee asserted.

Not naming any political party, Banerjee said a few people were trying to do politics.

Meanwhile, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh was stopped from visiting a cyclone relief centre during the day in South 24 Parganas district.

'We got only a day's times. Everybody was busy because of Prime Minister's programme. Yesterday, two halves of the day were spent to be with the PM. How much time did we get? 'We got only two days and within that you are spreading that you need everything… is this so easy? Do not try to do communal politics here... It is not the time to do that,' she said.

The chief minister said during her survey in Kakdwip, she found that 'people do not have water to drink... Waterbodies have been damaged by sea water, they are full of dead fishes… I cannot understand how they are surviving this trouble,' Banerjee added.

'Until power supply is normalised there, I have given the CESC an idea to hire 150 generators,' she said, adding the CESC is a private organization which was set up during the erstwhile Left Front government.

She said because of the lockdown there was a dearth in the manpower which has hit the restoration process.

'Several people have left because of coronavirus. In some places, there are 25 per cent, while in some places there are 30 per cent of workforce.

'… I will ask people to use the locals by including them under the 100 days' scheme for such work,' she said.

Banerjee added she has asked Firhad Hakim, Chairman of the Board of Advisors, to arrange for water to areas where supply was hampered.

'… for the time being, I will ask Hakim to take water to those places where there is no water supply. When the generators start working temporarily, the problem will be solved,' she said.

She also asked the media to be 'positive' and stand with the state government in this hour of crisis.

Three days after cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal, several areas of the city are still having no power and water supply following which residents put up road blockades.

Apart from the city, there were instances of police restoring to lathicharge after people took to the streets demanding immediate water supply in Howrah.

Similar incidents were reported in South 24 Parganas district's Sonarpur.

Earlier, at a review meeting held in Kakdwip, Banerjee directed the South 24 Parganas district administration to work on a war footing to restore normalcy in the cyclone-hit areas.

The chief minister also said that those injured in the cyclone will get Rs 25,000 each and the state will bear the expenses for their treatment.

She also cautioned the district police to keep a check on women trafficking and probable increase in criminal activities there.