Protests in Indian city over cyclone recovery delay
Thousands took to the streets of the Indian city of Kolkata on Saturday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding after a devastating “super cyclone”.
The death toll in India and Bangladesh from Cyclone Amphan’s rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast rose to at least 112 on Saturday, as authorities struggled to deal with the aftermath of the storm while also trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
With many areas still flooded and electricity still cut by the storm, Kolkata residents vented their anger for a second day, 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 early Saturday while witnesses said there were more.
The storm knocked out transformer stations setting off spectacular explosions across Kolkata. About 20 people were killed in the city, many of them electrocuted after venturing into the floods.
Many streets are still blocked by trees and water, and engineers are struggling to get to some parts to restore power.
“The coronavirus made our lives miserable, Cyclone Amphan turned it into hell,” Subash Biswas, principal of a state-run college in Kolkata told AFP.
Cyclone Amphan 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.
The toll was much less than previous storms in recent decades, which sometimes claimed thousands of lives. About three million people were moved away from the coast before Amphan struck.
Kolkata’s municipal chairman Firhad Hakim has warned that “it will take at five to six days to pump out the water from streets, to clear the uprooted trees and restore the water supply”.
Authorities are also trying to clear floodwater from Kolkata airport before domestic flights resume across India on Monday after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.
State disaster minister Javed Khan told AFP that hundreds of villages had been flooded after more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) of river embankments were washed away.
“The devastation was so intense that many areas remain inaccessible even three days after the cyclone,” he said.
The United Nations has warned that the saltwater which flooded inland areas could affect local agriculture for up to three years.