Prema Rajaram / Agencies
Kolkata / Bhubaneswar
Two days after West Bengal, Odisha and the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, were devastated by cyclone Amphan, PM Modi conducted an aerial view of the ravaged states on Friday and announced an interim assistance of Rs1,500 crore for restoration, as the death toll due to the natural calamity mounted to 80. The PM Modi was accompanied by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhanker in West Bengal and Naveen Patnaik in Odisha.
The PM announced an interim assistance of Rs1,000 crore for West Bengal, already battling a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, besides an influx of migrant labourers, after a review meeting with Governor Dhankhar and CM Banerjee, and the state’s top officials.
PM Modi landed at Kolkata airport around 11am before embarking on the aerial view of the Bashirhat in North 24 Parganas district. The three of them landed in Bashirhat college around 12.15pm for a meeting on overall assessment. Prior to the meeting, Banerjee demanded ‘Amphan’ be declared a national disaster. She said the state had suffered losses to the tune of Rs1 lakh crore in the fiercest cyclone to hit the state in over 100 years.
“The Prime Minister has announced Rs 1,000 crore emergency fund... what is the package I do not know. I have told him that we will give him the details. It will take some time to assess the overall situation, but the damage is worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore,” she said.
“In this time of distress and despair, the entire country and the Centre are with the people of Bengal. The Union government will extend all help to the state,” Modi said.
The Centre will also deploy a team to assess the extent of damage in the state, he said.
President Ram Nath Kovind also reached out to Mamata to show concern over the devastation. “The President called me. I am grateful to him. He was sorry for what has happened and said you are fighting devastation,” Mamata Banerjee said, adding the neighbouring country of Bhutan too tried to reach out to the West Bengal Chief Minister. However due to network issues, it was not entirely successful.
Meanwhile, rescue operations have begun across West Bengal with civic authorities clearing trees from roads that were blocking movement of vehicles and electric cables that are hanging low. It will take a few days for the overall assessment by the state administration before restoration work begins.
The death toll due to the cyclone reached 80 on Friday. The state has another challenge of grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic which has reported 3,197 cases and 187 deaths.
The PM later flew down to Odisha, where he announced a financial assistance of another Rs500 crore, after making an aerial survey of the affected districts with Governor Ganeshi Lal and CM Patnaik. Modi said further aid will be provided for long-term rehabilitation measures after getting a detailed report from the state government.
At A Glance
-- West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded ‘Amphan’ be declared a national disaster. She said the state had suffered losses worth Rs1 lakh-crore in the fiercest cyclone to hit the state in over 100 years.
-- The widespread devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan in West Bengal & Odisha is disturbing. My condolences to the families of those who have perished & I pray the injured make a speedy recovery. I offer my support to the brave people of these two states in this time of crisis,” Rahul Gandhi said.
--“Dear Mamata Banerjee didi, on behalf of the people of Delhi, I extend our full support and solidarity with you and the people of West Bengal in the wake of the destruction caused by cyclone Amphan. Kindly let us know if we could help in any manner in this hour of crisis,” Kejriwal tweeted.
-- In another post, he wrote, “Dear Naveen Patnaik, on behalf of the people of Delhi, I extend our full solidarity and support with you and the people of Odisha in the wake of the destruction caused by cyclone Amphan. Kindly let us know if we could help in any manner in this hour of crisis.”