The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinking' Just grab a bench

August 13, 2007: 83mm rainfall in three hours.

July 3, 2007: 160mm in five hours.

Impact: More or less identical with many parts of Calcutta remaining under water.

A bench doubling as a bridge helped finance minister Asim Dasgupta keep his appointment but many Calcuttans were forced to skip office and school as the monsoon again held the city hostage.

If you are looking for any assurance from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, here’s a poker-faced admission: “The same thing will be repeated if it rains like today again,” said Tushar Ghosh, chief engineer (drainage and sewerage).

Keep your fingers crossed till tomorrow afternoon. The Met office has warned of “heavy to very heavy rain” in Calcutta and the rest of south Bengal till tomorrow afternoon. “We expect the weather over Calcutta to improve from Tuesday afternoon onwards,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of the weather section at the Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore.

The rain claimed five lives in Calcutta and other districts and uprooted a dozen trees in various parts of the city.

Punctuated by incessant bolts of lightning and claps of thunder, the rain had started on Sunday but the heaviest burst fell in Calcutta between 8.30am and 11.30am on Monday. In the 24 hours from 11.30am on Sunday, the city received 183mm rainfall.

The intensity was much less than the July 3 deluge when the city bore the brunt of 160mm in five hours. On the ground, though, little was different.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation was unable to pump out the accumulated water fast enough.

Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya — who was busy saving the planet by distributing eco-friendly carry bags today while his city was wallowing in muck and mud — had told Calcutta High Court on Friday that the corporation had taken measures to tackle waterlogging. The Centre had agreed to provide Rs 80 crore for setting up four pumping stations at Dhapa, he had said.

But officials entrusted with the task were forthright today. “Given the existing condition of silted underground sewer lines, clogged surface drains and old pumps at the pumping stations, nothing more can be done,” chief engineer Ghosh said.

Some of the worst-affected areas included Camac Street, Park Street and Theatre Road. People living in the low-lying pockets of Behala and Jadavpur were marooned.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and finance minister Asim Dasgupta — perhaps reluctant to try his luck again with the bench —called up the mayor. The mayor, however, claimed that water receded quickly. “Despite heavy showers, the accumulated water from most city pockets receded quickly. At Ultadanga, there was some problem because of a snag in power supply.”

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