DISASTER WATCH: Turn will mean heavy rain in coastal Bengal – after ‘Aila’ comes ‘Laila’, panic unnecessary ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY MEGHDEEP BHATTACHARYYA
Calcutta, May 19: Set to pound the Andhra coast early tomorrow, cyclonic storm Laila could take a northeast turn later in the day triggering storm and heavy rain in parts of Bengal, but weather officials said there was “no reason to panic”.
At Writers’, however, ministers huddled with meteorologists, discussing precautionary measures in case the storm lived long enough to reach Bengal’s coastline for another round of elemental brutality less than a year after Aila.
According to the India Meteorological Department, Laila was still around 1,200km south-west of Calcutta.
“Frankly, there is no reason to panic yet. Chances of Laila causing Aila-like devastation in Bengal are little,” Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore, told The Telegraph this evening after meeting finance minister Asim Dasgupta, disaster management minister Mortaza Hossain, director-general of police Bhupinder Singh and several other officials at the state secretariat.
Weather officials said Laila, after making landfall in Andhra Pradesh, might take a slight north-eastern turn, which is why there were chances of residual storm in coastal Bengal and rain in other parts on Thursday night.
“What Bengal’s coastal region might experience is wind speeds of around 60 to 70km per hour and heavy rain towards the evening or night on Thursday. We are monitoring the situation. Today’s meeting was just a precautionary measure,” Debnath said.
Last year, when Aila had struck on May 25, the storm had packed wind speeds in excess of 110kmph in the city and much higher in the coastal areas.
“But one mustn’t forget that Aila had made landfall in Bengal, which is why the state had to experience such widespread devastation. Laila, however, is likely to make landfall at Andhra. By the time the residue of the cyclonic storm reaches Bengal, there will be little scope of damage from wind speed,” said . P. Sharma, chief meteorologist at a private met agency.
Finance minister Dasgupta said an alert had been sounded in the metropolis and the districts of East Midnapore, North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly.
“We are preparing for heavy rain and strong winds in the coastal districts. We’ve issued warnings for fishermen and have asked district administrations to be ready for evacuating people from near the coasts if needed,” the minister said after the meeting with met officials.
He said 270 relief camps had been opened and 200 more would be set up if needed, a PTI report said.