Storm knocks down power
Power was among the worst-affected sectors in the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan on Wednesday and numerous pockets of south Bengal remained without electricity even at the end of Thursday, prompting Mamata Banerjee to instruct the administration to prioritise its restoration.
The chief minister, during her stocktaking meeting at Nabanna in the afternoon, told senior officials of the state-run power utilities and the power department that electricity outage was among the inconveniences faced by people.
“Electricity, its restoration has to be prioritised…. How you can restore electricity as quickly as possible, please see to it,” she said.
“In so many places, cables have been torn, poles have fallen, just randomly. There are accessibility issues… safety issues as well. But it has to be done as promptly as possible,” Mamata added.
Thousands of electric poles in areas served by the state-run distribution utility remained strewn on the roads till Thursday evening and restoration of supply in the affected areas remained a challenge for the administration.
A senior power department official said 60 per cent substations were damaged causing huge disruptions in downstream 33KV and 11KV lines, which finally give power to the households.
“The two Midnapores, the two 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Malda and Nadia have been very badly affected... More than 15,000 people were pressed into service to resume electric supply. The extent to which we can restore services would be clear by tomorrow evening,” said the official.
Besides the power department official, the NDRF and SDRF personnel, with support of the local people, began the strenuous job of clearing felled trees.
Sources in the power department said several areas such as Sandeshkhali, Minakhan, Hingalganj, Nazat, Haroa, Baduria and Hemnagar in North 24-Parganas, and Canning, Namkhana, Gosaba, Kakdwip, Diamond Harbour and Basanti in South 24-Parganas were among the badly-affected places.
An official of the state-run distribution utility said: “As thousands of poles have been felled, the repair at the sub-station will not immediately result in relief as the poles act as the last-mile.”
A senior power department official said the foremost priority was to restore and maintain uninterrupted supply to emergency facilities such as hospitals and quarantine centres amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Besides, water supply facilities and pumping stations are to be prioritised. Law enforcement and other essential services, too. It has been a real challenge, unlike anything in recent memory,” he added.
Reports have also been pouring in from East Midnapore and West Midnapore.
Most parts of East Midnapore continued to be without electricity till late on Thursday, with sources saying response to the crisis was being hampered by the disruption of cellular and electrical networks.
“Water supply has taken a hard hit as well because a lot of municipality-run supply lines were severely damaged,” said an official in Haldia, adding that several parts of the town were experiencing low water pressure.
Additional reporting by Anshuman Phadikar