The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Storm subsides, blame game rages

Calcutta, Nov. 15: Controversy over delay in broadcasting the cyclone warning for fishermen who ventured to the sea on Tuesday deepened following the All India Radio’s claim that it had received the message from the Alipore Area Cyclone Warning Centre almost two hours after the gale had brushed past Bengal and entered Bangladesh.

In a letter to fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda today, AIR’s chief producer in Calcutta, P.K. Mitra, claimed that his office had received the first report about the cyclone from the Alipore weather office at 1.59 pm, Tuesday.

But the warning could not be broadcast immediately from the Calcutta A and B channels as transmission was disrupted due to power failure from 12.28 pm to 5.47. It was broadcast on the FM channels.

The deputy director-general of the weather office, R.N. Goldar, said the cyclone warning could not be given 24 hours in advance as the “system moved extremely fast from the night of November 11”. A cyclone normally moves at a speed of 15 to 20 km per hour. But in this case, it moved at 35 km per hour, he said.

“On November 11, we had given a cyclone warning to Orissa as it was moving towards Paradip,” Goldar said. “But it then shifted course, gathered speed and moved towards Bengal.”

The radio station started broadcasting storm warnings from 5.55 pm, when Akashvani’s A and B transmissions resumed. But the fishermen were at high sea by then. The low frequency FM channels, on which the warnings were aired earlier, can be accessed only by listeners in the city.

The fisheries minister claimed that the Orissa government had informed him that it had received the cyclone warning from its regional weather office at least 24 hours before the storm hit the state’s coast on November 12. There were no reports of mishaps from the sea adjoining Orissa.

Nanda said 165 Bengal fishermen who went missing after 25 trawlers capsized in the sea on the day “are victims of the callous attitude of our weather office”.

The minister has requested chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to take up the issue with the Centre to avoid such incidents in future.

Canadian minister for natural resources Herb Dhaliwal today assured Bhattacharjee of his country’s assistance to prevent flood and cyclone losses. The two discussed systems to air early warnings and the latest in disaster control and management.

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