West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday asked for more time to restore electricity and other essential services after Cyclone Amphan tore through the state on Wednesday, causing damage of Rs 1 lakh crore to infrastructure and crops.
“It’s just been two days since the catastrophe. We are all working day and night. Please be patient. We are trying to restore everything as soon as possible,” she said at a news conference.
“The only thing I can say then is cut off my head,” Ms Banerjee said when asked about increasing public resentment. The government announced it had called on the army to help.
Hundreds took to the streets at different places in Kolkata and around on Saturday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding after the devastating cyclone.
There was trouble on the Barrackpore-Sodepur bypass with police and the public coming to blows after people put up a roadblock. In south Kolkata, there were roadblocks at Kasba and Garia. In Howrah, not from the chief minister’s office at Nabanna, people blocked Kona Expressway demanding electricity.
At least 86 people have died in the state from Cyclone Amphan’s rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast, 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 1.5 crore people working again.
The police told news agency AFP that 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 explosions across Kolkata. At least 19 people were killed in the city, many of them electrocuted after venturing into stagnant water.
Many streets are still blocked by trees and water, and engineers are struggling to get to some parts to restore power.
Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India and Bangladesh since 1999. Lakhs of people were moved away from the coast in Odisha and Bengal.
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 of river embankments were washed away.
“The devastation was so intense that many areas remain inaccessible even three days after the cyclone,” he said.