Protests in Kolkata over delay in govt response to Cyclone Amphan

KOLKATA • Thousands took to the streets in the Indian city of Kolkata yesterday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding in the wake of Cyclone Amphan, which is estimated to have caused one trillion rupees (S$18.7 billion) in damage.

Neighbouring Bangladesh initially said it had suffered a loss of 11 billion taka (S$184 million). But this could rise, officials said.

The death toll in India and Bangladesh from Cyclone Amphan's rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast last week rose to at least 112 yesterday, as the authorities struggled to deal with the aftermath of the storm while also trying to stop the spread of the corona-virus.

With many areas still flooded and electricity still not restored, residents of Kolkata, the state capital of West Bengal, vented their anger for a second day yesterday, demanding faster action to get the city of 15 million people working again.

Police said more than 5,000 people took part in different demonstrations while witnesses said there were more.

The storm knocked out transformer stations, setting off spectacular explosions across Kolkata. About 20 people were killed, many of them electrocuted after venturing into the floods.

Many streets are still blocked by trees and flood waters, and engineers are struggling to restore power to some parts.

The cyclone was the fiercest storm to hit India and Bangladesh since 1999. At least 86 people are now reported dead in India and 26 in Bangladesh.

About three million people were moved away from the coast before the cyclone struck.

State disaster minister Javed Khan told AFP that hundreds of villages had been flooded after more than 70km of river embankments was washed away.

The United Nations has warned that the saltwater which flooded inland areas could affect local agriculture for up to three years.

The authorities are also trying to clear flood waters from the Kolkata airport before domestic flights resume across India tomorrow after a two-month pandemic shutdown.

In Bangladesh, aid agencies were helping to distribute food and shelter items across the country, and set up clean water sources and latrines, said Mr Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesman. Some 10 million people were impacted by the cyclone, he added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'Protests in Kolkata over delay in govt response to Cyclone Amphan'. Print Edition | Subscribe