West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee cancelled all her rallies from May 3-4 during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and instead, chose to personally monitor cyclone Fani from Kharagpur in the state’s West Midnapore district.
Kharagpur is strategically located and from here all the threatened districts in the state - East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans – can be closely monitored and reached quickly. Banerjee was on her way to a political rally before she decided to cancel it and instead, put up at Kharagpur to personally monitor the cyclone.
Banerjee is the star campaigner for TMC which is fighting a pitched battle against the BJP and the Congress’s state unit to send the maximum number of Parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha in the ongoing general elections.
“Have cancelled my rallies for the next 48 hours because of what could be an impending disaster #CyclonicStormFANI We are monitoring the situation 24x7 and doing all it takes. I appeal to all people to cooperate. Be alert, take care and stay safe for the next two days,” she said on a social media platform.
Banerjee asked people not to pay heed to rumours and stay away from outdoor activities as much as possible in these two days.
She said that relief material had been sent to the districts and a monitoring cell at the state secretariat at Nabanna had been opened to keep a watch on the situation.
Particularly, East and West Midnapore, both North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans are expected to feel the initial impact of Fani as it enters West Bengal.
Six National Disaster Response Force teams and four teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) have been deployed across south Bengal, while one standby team of the SDRF is being kept ready at Nabanna to press into action if the situation so requires.
Railways has cancelled over 225 trains anticipating disruptions in operations because of the cyclone and has also put in place a quick-response team to address any exigencies arising out of the cyclone.
Flight operations to and fro the state were also suspended as Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport closed down from 3:00 pm on May 3 to 8:00 am on May 4.
A statement from national carrier Indigo stated that all its flights from Kolkata had been cancelled till 6 pm and Bhubaneswar flights till 3 pm on May 4 and it would accommodate passengers in the next available flight at no extra cost. The statement added that it would also waive off the cancellation fee and refund the full amount to passengers travelling between Kolkata-Bhubaneshwar-Vishakhapatnam till May 5.
The Bharatiya Janta Party also called off its rallies in the state. While prime minister Nardendra Modi’s rallies in Tamluk and Jhargram have been postponed by a day, Yogi Adityanath's rally in Jamshedpur, scheduled on Friday, was cancelled. The party’s president also cancelled three rallies in nearby Jharkhand on the same day due to worsening weather conditions.
As Kolkata and several parts of coastal Bengal continued to witness drizzles which intensified into heavy rain during the evening, private offices shortened working hours, while schools remained closed. Colleges have also rescheduled ongoing examinations.