The storm may have lasted barely five minutes but Calcutta and its fringes felt its fury for more than 24 hours.
Four more persons were reported killed during the Nor’wester that hit town at 116kmph on Wednesday evening, leaving in its wake a trail of snapped electricity and telephone lines, cars smashed by falling trees, roofless shanties, blocked roads and neighbourhoods without power.
The ravages of the strongest storm to strike the city in a decade — the peak wind speed exceeded that of Cyclone Aila — were visible till late on Thursday with many roads still littered with branches of trees and electricity yet to be restored in some localities.
The casualties rose to six with storm-related deaths being reported from Howrah and South 24-Parganas.
Jalal Mondal, a 48-year-old daily wage earner from Panchla in Howrah, apparently died when a portion of a wall collapsed over him.
Ajij Khan, 18, of Pranganj in Bhangar, was fatally injured after a tree fell on him while he was running towards his house to escape the storm. He died at SSKM Hospital on Thursday morning.
Manjura Biwi, 45, of Jibantala died when the asbestos roof of her home collapsed. Farid Khan, 35, of Frasergunj was struck by lightning while working in a field.
The officially known casualties were Duranta Roy of Kashipur in South 24-Parganas, who died when a banyan tree fell on his shop, and three-year-old Rita Saw, killed when a portion of a wall collapsed at Domjur in Howrah.
The disaster management department has announced Rs 2 lakh in compensation to the family of each victim, subject to verification.
For many Calcuttans, lack of power was the main cause of pique. No electricity not only meant a night without fans and air-conditioners but also a morning without water. Mobile phones running out of battery only added to the frustration.
Most housing complexes equipped with diesel generators ran them intermittently to save fuel once it became clear that power supply wouldn’t be restored anytime soon.
“The lights went out a little after 7pm and the CESC helpline was unreachable. Our inverter battery ran out shortly after 3am and from then on it was an interminable wait for relief,” recounted marketing professional Soumya Ray, a resident of Lake Gardens.
Soumya’s wife left home for office in the morning with her mobile phone battery dead. Power did not return until after 3pm.
Interior designer Sonali Sarkar was initially upset at having missed Wednesday evening’s IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Mumbai Indians, little knowing that her family would be counting more tangible losses later.
Husband Sankhasubhra Ray’s snack counter at Metro Cash and Carry was among the commercial establishments damaged during the storm.
Power supply was restored in some areas within an hour of the storm passing but Lake Gardens, Rajarhat, Belghoria, Madhyamgram, Sodepur and localities along and beyond the EM Bypass suffered much longer.
Daspara, 2km from the Mukundapur-EM Bypass connector, plunged into darkness around 7.15pm on Wednesday and power hadn’t been restored till late on Thursday.
An official of the state power distribution company said two towers were damaged between Mahishpota and Sajidpur, off the Kalyani Expressway. “These will take 10 days to fully repair, which means phased power cuts in the northern fringes for at least the next three days.”
Four sub-stations of the WBSEDCL were damaged at Mahishpota, Sajidpur Ghola and Belghoria.
Some areas under Rajarhat Municipality were without power until Thursday evening but New Town escaped the agony as the power lines there are underground. Salt Lake didn’t suffer much either, except Mahishbathan.
In the CESC-served areas, most of the restoration work was done by Wednesday night. “We deployed over 150 teams,” an official said.
The mayoral council member of parks and gardens in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Debasish Kumar, said the storm uprooted 85 trees and damaged over 500.
By Thursday evening, 25 truckloads of broken branches had been removed from the roads. “Work will continue till Friday morning. The 115 workers who have worked at a stretch will be rewarded,” Kumar said.
Footnote: If CESC customers can’t get through to its helpline 1912 when the need arises, the company has suggested they dial 18605001912.