The Sen family of central Calcutta was looking forward to a relaxed beach holiday at Shankarpur this weekend. On Thursday evening, they hurriedly cancelled their plan.
“We did not want to take a chance, after the cyclone warning. We do not know what the impact will be and so have decided to stay put,” said Biswajit Sen, a businessman. “The cyclone, I heard, could hit the coast, so being in Calcutta is safer.”
Sen was not alone, as many others like him cancelled their trips to nearby beach destinations like Digha, Shankarpur and Puri.
“We had full bookings till Tuesday. But almost 65 per cent of the bookings have been cancelled. We fear the rest will be cancelled by Friday,” said an official of Hotel Ashoka in Shankarpur.
The nature of the cyclone was the talking point on Thursday, following the Met office forecast of a “very serious” cyclonic storm, Sidr, approaching the Bengal-Bangladesh coast.
As word spread about its strike speed, between 150 kph and 180 kph, a wave of panic swept across Calcutta.
As there was no clear word on the potential impact of the cyclone on the city, everyone was quick to draw up disaster management strategies — from scrapping travel plans to shutting down offices.
The US government establishments in the city — American consulate, American Center and American Library — announced that the offices would remain closed on Friday due to “unanticipated severe weather conditions”.
In an e-mail communiqué to 100-odd Japanese nationals in Calcutta, the Japanese consulate sent out an advisory to “store adequate drinking water, staples, medicines and keeping flashlights and radio sets” handy.
“We have sent out special high alerts to the 80 Japanese professionals in Haldia, working with Mitsubishi Chemicals, since it is likely to be worse affected,” Japanese vice-consul Akihiro Oikawa told Metro.
The office of the British Deputy High Commission contacted all British nationals in Bengal and Orissa on Friday, sending out cyclone warnings.
“We are keeping a close watch and are ready to extend all help to German nationals in Calcutta and Orissa,” said German consul-general Günter Wehrmann.
Fear of discontinuity in business gripped the information, communication and technology (ICT) companies.
By late on Thursday, most companies in Salt Lake’s Sector V — required to work 24x7 — had readied plans to minimise operational losses.
Wipro BPO issued an advisory to its night shift employees not to step out of office. Acclaris, a city-based BPO, did not operate its night shift in Calcutta.
Some other companies arranged for guest house accommodation for people working in mission critical projects and stocked up on food items.
The civic body asked its engineers to be on call in the night and deputed personnel in all the 18 drainage pumping stations to flush out water in case of heavy rain.
Fearing fierce wind, billboards were removed from tall buildings.
“We have removed all loose components from the rooftop and also some billboards that are likely to be blown away, as precautionary measures,” said a Forum spokesperson.