The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brace for a fresh torrent

Calcutta, July 19: A six-hour pounding from above sank much of Calcutta this morning ' some places were under water till afternoon, even evening ' as the civic authorities failed the first real test of monsoon this season.

The north of the city suffered more than the south, first because the rain was heavier and second as the canals that drain the water out in that part were overflowing since they are connected to rivers which were in high tide.

The Met office predicted more of the same in Calcutta and the rest of south Bengal in the next 24 hours. “We expect heavy rain in Gangetic Bengal, including Calcutta, till Friday noon,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of the weather section at the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore.

Debnath cited two reasons for the torrent. “A trough of low pressure stretched from Bihar to the central Bay of Bengal across Calcutta. Also, there was a cyclonic circulation (anti-clockwise movement of air) over Gangetic Bengal and its neighbourhood. Under the combined influence of the two systems, the monsoon current over Gangetic Bengal became very active.”

The intensity was greater in the northern part of the city where the Met office recorded 85 mm of rain at Dum Dum between 2 and 8.30 am while Alipore, in the south, received 52 mm.

“Today’s rainfall created havoc because it rained so heavily in a short span (six and a half hours),” an official said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said though the waters were receding, there was concern about the heavy rain forecast over the next 24 hours. “Boats have been deployed in three police station areas in the city,” he said.

In a wake-up call for the chief minister, Salt Lake’s Sector V, the window to his infotech dreams, was completely paralysed. Wading through the water, an IT professional asked: “Why can’t the authorities get their basic drainage facts right before pronouncing this the showpiece of the east'”

For one reason or another, several of the 19 pumping stations in Calcutta did not work, causing long hours of flooding, mainly in the northern parts of the city.

There’s little doubt the rain was intense. Had it rained for 12 hours at the rate of 85 mm uniformly over a 12.5 square km area ' the size of Salt Lake that was badly affected in parts ' some 1.06 billion litres of water would have poured from the skies. Half of that would have been dumped in a six-hour period.

A British Airways flight, scheduled to land early in the morning, had to be diverted to New Delhi. A few long-distance trains from the Chitpur terminal were either cancelled or rescheduled.

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