Kolkata/Bhubaneswar: Packing winds of up to 190 kmph, the extremely severe cyclone Amphan roared into West Bengal Wednesday, dumping heavy rain and leaving a trail of destruction that left at least six people dead, including a three-month-old baby, officials said.
Amphan made a fierce landfall at Digha on the Bengal-Odisha border near Sunderban and Hatiya in Bangladesh, cutting a swathe through the coastal areas, flattening fragile dwellings, uprooting trees and electric poles. The landfall, which took place between 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm, witnessed strong winds with speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph and torrential downpour, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
Video clips showed gigantic tidal waves crashing into a seawall in Digha and thick sheets of rain blurring the coastline in the two states. Initial reports said in several districts of West Bengal, including North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Howrah, Kolkata, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Murshidabad and Burdwan, trees and electric poles were uprooted, thatched houses were destroyed and thousands of acres of standing crop got inundated. Several areas in both states were plunged into darkness as electric installations collapsed. Communications networks snapped as telephone towers crumbled. Movement on the roads was seriously disrupted with large trees and electric poles blocking vehicles.
The cyclone claimed at least three lives in West Bengal, and three in Odisha. A teenage from Howrah died when she was hit by a flying iron sheet. At Basirhat in North 24 Parganas, a youth named Mahanta Das died after a tree fell on him in his own courtyard. In Minakhan, North 24 Parganas, a woman identified as Nur Jahan Behra died.
In Odisha, two people died in cyclone shelters due to ailments and a three-month old child in a wall collapse. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee remained in the disaster control room during the landfall and oversaw the operations by various agencies deployed on the ground. Flight operations at Kolkata airport were suspended due to adverse conditions. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and special relief commissioner P.K. Jena were in constant touch with collectors of north Odisha districts. At least 6.58 lakh people were evacuated in West Bengal and Odisha before the cyclone struck.