Protests in Indian city over cyclone recovery delay

KOLKATA (AFP) – Thousands took to the streets of the Indian city of Kolkata yesterday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding after a devastating “super cyclone”.

The death toll in India and Bangladesh from Cyclone Amphan’s rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast rose to at least 112 yesterday, 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 15 million people working again.

Police said more than 5,000 people took part in different demonstrations early yesterday while witnesses said there were more.

The storm knocked out transformer stations setting off spectacular explosions across Kolkata. About 20 people were killed in the city, many of them electrocuted after venturing into the floods.

Many streets are still blocked by trees and water, and engineers are struggling to get to some parts to restore power. “The coronavirus made our lives miserable, Cyclone Amphan made it worse,” Subash Biswas, principal of a state-run college in Kolkata told AFP.

Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India and Bangladesh since 1999. At least 86 people are now reported dead in India and 26 in Bangladesh.

The toll was much less than previous storms in recent decades, which sometimes claimed thousands of lives. About three million people were moved away from the coast before Amphan struck.

People and police personnel gather around a tree that fell on electric lines on a street after the landfall of cyclone Amphan in Kolkata. PHOTO: AFP