NEW DELHI — As cyclone Amphan tore through Bengal and Odisha on May 21, the southern part of Bengal took an unprecedented battering. Shell-shocked at the devastation wreaked by the super cyclone, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “Shorbonash hoye gyache. (Everything is annihilated).”
While large swathes of capital city Kolkata remained without electricity and phone connections even a day later, very little news has emerged from parts of coastal Bengal, completely cut off due to damaged electricity lines and telephone connections.
HuffPost India managed to establish contact with a social worker in Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas, adjoining the mangroves of Sunderbans, which bore the brunt of the super cyclone.
Subhasish Mondal, who works closely with the women and fishermen of Sandeshkhali block, told us that as far as his eye could see, everything was inundated with salt water and destroyed. Fourteen gram panchayats out of 16 in two blocks comprising Sandeshkhali were “completely destroyed”, he said. Eight of the nine gram panchayats of adjoining Hasnabad block are under water. The Hingalganj gram panchayat has witnessed unprecedented damage and barely has a single mud hut standing, Mondal said. Basirhat, the constituency under which all these blocks fall, has taken a severe beating.
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“At least 7,000-8,000 huts, maybe even 10,000 huts, have been completely razed to the ground. You cannot tell the walls from the roof, that’s how mangled the remains are,” he said.
Power went off the day the cyclone began approaching, so unlike Kolkata, parts of Sunderbans have not had power for three days now and no phone lines are working. Mondal said that thousands of people are now residing in school buildings and government shelters set up before the cyclone.
Mondal, who has been coordinating with the state departments for relief and reviewing damages with a team, shared some photos of the devastation with HuffPost India.
Mondal added that the river crashed through the banks and the embankments the villagers had made with sacks and stones, flooding homes and drowning crops.
“The primary livelihood of people in Sandeshkhali area is fishing. Holdings where fish are bred stretch to 100-200 bighas each... all those freshwater holdings have been flooded with saline water. The fish have been swept away and the rest are dying. The losses are unimaginable,” Mondal said.
The small agricultural land the poorer farmers grew crops in are destroyed too, Mondal added.
(HuffPost India will keep updating this story as and when we can establish contact with our sources.)