The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Monster monsoon
Pray for wind: Calcutta faces threat of bigger torrent in 48 hours
If a 5-year-old boy — 3.5 feet tall — were standing at Bank Para in Behala at Tuesday dawn, this is what would have happened. Graphic shows an imaginary situation based on actual figures during the heaviest burst on Tuesday.

Calcutta, July 3: The next 48 hours will decide whether Tuesday’s torrent was a crescendo or just a curtain-raiser.

A monster is hovering in the Bay of Bengal, unable to make up its mind whether to hit Calcutta or move elsewhere.

If the phenomenon that feeds on immeasurable amount of moisture makes landfall in Calcutta, Tuesday’s torment that killed eight people in the state will pale in comparison to what lies ahead.

The well-marked low pressure, lying around 300 km off Calcutta at 10 pm today, is showing signs of moving towards land. If and when the menacing formation wades ashore, it can “wreak havoc”, weather officials said.

That doesn’t mean Calcutta is in the path of certain peril. Such formations had earlier veered off course and headed towards the Orissa coast.

“We expect heavy rains in Calcutta and the south Bengal districts during the next 48 hours,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of weather section at Regional Meteorological Centre in Alipore.

At the weather office, officials kept their eyes glued to satellite images of the low pressure in the northeastern Bay.

“If the low pressure intensifies into a depression and heads towards Calcutta, there could be heavy rains for hours that might drown the city,” said a Met official. “If it hits Calcutta, it can wreak havoc. But it can also change course and head elsewhere,” the official added.

One factor that could force a change of direction is wind configuration.

Late tonight, the signs were not too reassuring. The downpour resumed in full force after brief spells of calm, prompting CESC to suspend power supply to several areas as a safety measure. Even places that stay above water got submerged in the fresh fury.

By then, large swathes of Calcutta had spent nearly 18 hours under water — the monsoon’s newly acquired reputation for ruthlessness growing by the hour and reopening the scars of June 13 when the rainy season officially began with a vengeance.

Today, it rained 160mm in five hours from 3.30am in Alipore, the highest so far this season.

Most of the rain-related deaths occurred in and around the city because a combination of three factors — one stretching up to Rajasthan through a cross-country corridor that took shape in the sky — ensured that Calcutta remained the focal point of the burst.

The deaths were largely the result of structures collapsing and electrocution, unlike on June 13 when lightning struck down several people. Thunderclouds that caused the lightning then were absent today.

A couple and their four children were killed in a wall collapse in South 24-Parganas, leaving behind a seven-year-old boy as the sole survivor of the family.

The rain crippled road transport and affected flights and trains. Metro Rail, the usual fallback, suspended services for some time because of a fire.

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