When Super cyclone Amphan was tearing its way through Kolkata with wind speed gusting up to 130 km per hour, none could recollect any calamity to compare Wednesday’s devastation with. The city had never seen such destruction in its recent memories.
“After every calamity, we tend to compare it with something in the past. We have seen cyclone Aila in 2009 and cyclone Bulbul in 2019. But Amphan was like hell. I have not seen anything of this sort in my life. It was as if the storm was whistling and bulldozing its way through,” said Bibhutibhusan Dey, 70, a resident of east Kolkata.
Many people said they got an earthquake-like feeling when the cyclone was battering the city. Some said they felt that buildings were swaying. The feeling was all the more intense in high rises in east Kolkata which was closer to Cyclone Amphan’s path.
“We felt as if the entire building was swaying. Initially, we thought that an earthquake was taking place even as the cyclone was raging outside. But then, we found out that it was because of the storm. It was really scary,” said Arpita Pal, who resides on the 10th floor of a high-rise building in east Kolkata.
Tollywood actor Ankush Hazra also shared his feelings on social media and shared glimpses of his damaged apartment. He wrote: “Earthquake or Cyclone?”
On Thursday morning, the streets and lanes bore the scar marks left behind by the storm – uprooted lamp posts and traffic signals, broken pieces of glasses from shattered windowpanes and damaged vehicles trapped under broken tree-branches among others. Several houses were also damaged when uprooted trees fell on them.
“We are getting dozens of calls every second at the control room. Hundreds of trees, lamp posts and traffic signals have been uprooted. Several roads have been blocked. Power lines, cable wires and telephone wires have snapped. The city is in a mess,” said an official of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation’s control room.
As the storm passed away, the netizens started uploading horrific pictures and videos on social networking sites – exploding transformers, trees getting uprooted, tin roofs and street-hoardings flying like paper sheets and a raging storm that Kolkatans had never seen.
“I saw at least two transformers exploding. It was like fireworks during Diwali night. Suddenly the entire area plunged into darkness and since then we have no power. No electronic gadgets are working, I could only charge one mobile with a power bank,” said Arindam Biswas, a resident of Baghajatin area in south Kolkata.
With roads blocked by fallen trees, hardly any traffic was seen and shops and markets, too, remained closed on Thursday in the aftermath of the storm. The city had virtually come to standstill.
“It was a real lockdown and everyone maintained social distancing. No going out, No mobile phones either,” said Arindam Sen, a resident of Madurdaha in east Kolkata.
In the slums, the situation was all the worse. While thousands of shanties were badly damaged as their roofs and walls gave way in the face of the storm and the intense rain, the people either took shelters in nearby schools or in some permanent houses.
“We never thought that the storm would be so intense. The civic officials told us to move to the nearby school building. But since we had seen Aila and Bulbul, we thought Amphan would be the same or with a little more intensity. But when it hit, we had nowhere to go. The school was too far. We decided to take shelter in a nearby two-storied house,” said Sheetal, who works as a maid and lives in a shanty near Anandapur in east Kolkata.
Several parts of Kolkata, including the NSCBI airport, remained flooded with rainwater. The local municipal corporation is yet to come out with the assessment of the damage.