Calcutta, Oct. 26: Calcutta has received since last night a volume of rain equal to its drinking water requirements for 20 days, but the skies may clear by tomorrow afternoon or evening, the weatherman said.
The 24-hour rainfall since 5.30pm yesterday was 157.3mm, on a par with the average rain for the whole of October (157.8mm). It easily beat this year’s previous highest single-day figure of 110.6mm on June 20, Met officials said.
The rain brought the maximum temperature nine degrees below normal to 23 degrees — lower than the average maximum temperature during January, Calcutta’s coldest month.
Two people were killed when a portion of a crumbling house in Burrabazar caved in.
When the news of heavy overnight rain in Calcutta reached Darjeeling early this morning, chief minister Mamata Banerjee called up and ordered municipal affairs minister Firhad Hakim to set out on flood control and ensure full-strength civic services.
The Alipore weather office said the atmospheric conditions causing the rain had begun to weaken rapidly.
“Although the low pressure over Andhra is moving towards Calcutta, it is weakening rapidly. By the time it reaches Calcutta, it won’t have the power to create something unusual,” an official said.
When Hakim received Mamata’s instructions around 6.30am, virtually every street in Calcutta was under water: Ballygunge Phari, Southern Avenue, Park Street, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Elgin Road, Loudon Street, Central Avenue, College Street, Bidhan Sarani, Amherst Street….
It was worse in the suburbs, with the water taking longer to drain in places like Kasba, Dum Dum and Behala.
Many skipped work and relished the out-of-season nip in the air.
“The maximum temperature today was 23 degrees, nine degrees below normal,” a Met official said. The average maximum temperature during October is 32.3, while the figures for November, December and January are 30.2, 27 and 26.1 degrees, respectively.
Office-goers faced a nightmare. “There were no taxis or autos and only a few buses. The rickshaws were either not available or asked five times the usual fare,” said a Kasba resident who waited 30 minutes for a bus and then waded.
Mamata asked Hakim to ensure the water receded quickly. He was told to first go to Howrah, where the neighbourhood of the state’s new secretariat was knee-deep in water.
“Then he was told to supervise, along with the mayor, the civic body’s operations from its control room,” a Trinamul source said.
The source said Hakim initially pleaded he would be busy with his club Chetla Agrani’s Vijaya Sammilani, scheduled this evening, but Mamata told him to put the event off.
Hakim and mayor Sovan Chatterjee were together at the Calcutta Municipal Corporation control room, which was flooded with calls. One caller mentioned an uprooted tree on Gurusaday Road, another a flooded street elsewhere….
Calcutta’s underground drains can remove only 6mm of water in an hour, and even the 200 pumps used by the civic body failed to speed up the drainage substantially till afternoon, several hours after the rain had weakened.
By late evening, much of the water had receded from the streets but low-lying areas were still flooded.
Calcutta received 7,406.2 million gallons of rainwater between 6pm yesterday and 2pm today, while its daily drinking water requirement is 360 million gallons.
One unusual feature of the rain was that it fell equally hard across the city, north to south. All the 18 civic pumping stations drained out an almost equal amount of rainwater: around 150mm.
Shop workers Ramkrishna Mondal, 50, and Sanjay Mondal, 22, died when a balcony on 106 Cotton Street collapsed on them around 7am.
“They had rushed to look when a part of the balcony caved in. While they stood on the ground floor, the rest of the balcony came down on them,” said an officer at Posta police station.
Sanjay died on the spot; Ramkrishna in hospital. They used to work in a Cotton Street shop that sells chemicals, and slept on the pavement outside.