At least three lakh people have been evacuated from the coastal areas of West Bengal, ahead of the extremely severe cyclonic storm "Amphan", and all steps have been taken to deal with any eventuality arising out of it, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday.
Banerjee said she and senior state government officials are directly monitoring the situation and she will stay put at the state secretariat on Wednesday, when "Amphan" is expected to make landfall, to personally monitor the situation in the state.
"After talking to experts, I have learnt that this cyclone will be massive, compared to cyclones Aila or Bulbul. It is (Amphan) dangerous. It is likely to hit the land at Sagar Island on Wednesday afternoon and move inwards till midnight, before going towards Bangladesh.
"This cyclone is of a different character. So it is better to be cautious and stay indoors till Thursday morning. The impact of Cyclone Amphan will also be felt in the city, East Midnapore, some parts of West Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly districts," she told a press conference here.
"All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with any eventuality arising out of the super cyclone. I had a word with Union Home Minister Amit Shah regarding it. At least three lakh people have been evacuated from three coastal districts of the state and moved to relief shelters," the chief minister said and announced several helpline numbers.
"As of now, we have evacuated two lakh people from South 24 Parganas, around 50,000 from North 24 Parganas, around 40,000 and 10,000 people from East and West Midnapore respectively. They have been shifted to the shelters prepared for Cyclone Amphan," Banerjee said.
During Cyclone Bulbul, the state government had evacuated 1.8 lakh people, she added.
The evacuees have been shifted to cyclone shelters and all precautions are being taken, Banerjee said and warned fishermen against sailing into the sea.
Expressing fears that Cyclone Amphan may wreak most of its devastation in South 24 Parganas, she said her government has already cautioned the residents of Sagar Island, Fresarganj, Gosaba, Goramari, Canning, Basanti, Namkhana and Kakdwip.
"We have taken adequate measures at places in East Midnapore such as Ramnagar, Khejuri and Sutahata. We are totally prepared. Since Sunday, our task force under Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha has started working. The district magistrates and superintendents of police have been directed to stay alert throughout these three days," Banerjee said.
Teams of the NDRF, 15 teams of the SDRF, besides those from the disaster management, power, health and PHE departments, along with officials of other departments, have been sent to the areas likely to be hit by the cyclone, she added.
The chief minister urged people to maintain social distancing at the cyclone shelters and not forget the COVID-19 pandemic. The shelters have been properly sanitised so that those shifted there are not infected by the killer virus.
"Since COVID-19 is still there, we urge people to use masks, religiously follow sanitisation practices and maintain social distancing. We have readied ample drinking water. I have also asked the DMs and SPs to see that the social-distancing norms are not flouted," she said.
Banerjee also urged those at the shelters not to step out till Thursday unless the administration gives them the nod.
"Please cooperate. I can understand the hardships you are facing during this coronavirus pandemic. We should take proper care of aged people," she said and urged those staying in mud houses or dilapidated structures to take refuge at the cyclone shelters.
Banerjee asked Sinha to request the railways not to run any "Shramik Special" train to bring back migrant workers to the state from Wednesday till Thursday morning as a precautionary measure.
"Around three lakh migrant workers have reached West Bengal. Every day around 8,000 to 10,000 of them are returning to the state and the administration is helping them reach their home districts.
"We are asking the railways to increase the number of compartments so that within the next 10 days ,another four to five lakh migrant workers return home," she said.
Later, the chief minister held a video-conference with all the DMs, SPs, ministers and former city mayor Firhad Hakim, and directed them to stay cautious.
Cyclone Amphan is expected to cross the West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts between Digha in West Bengal and the Hatia island in Bangladesh on Wednesday as a very severe cyclonic storm after losing some steam as it approaches landfall with a maximum sustained wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph, gusting to 180 kmph.
The meteorological department has issued an "orange message" for West Bengal and warned of extensive damage in Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)