Bengal evacuees worry Covid will spread in cyclone shelters

COVID-19 Health

They have been provided masks and sanitizer

Kolkata: The fear of being exposed to coronavirus is troubling people who are being evacuated from West Bengal’s low-lying areas to safe camps ahead of the cyclonic storm Yaas. 

Chakradhar Sahoo, who lives in a mud house at Dihibirkul village of East Midnapore district, shifted to a camp at a multipurpose cyclone shelter set up by the local gram panchayat.

His family of five people has taken shelter in the camp. “All of us here are wearing masks and using sanitizer all the time, but maintaining physical distancing here is next to impossible,” he informed The Observer.

Brajesh Pradhan, along with his family that includes his ailing mother, has taken shelter in a camp organized by Haldia-II gram panchayat 7 km away. He had to leave behind his five cows in his mud house.

“To get a proper shelter was so inevitable that we couldn’t think about Covid-19. However, masks and sanitizer have been given to us,” Pradhan said.

Ashish Giri, who is in charge of the multipurpose cyclone shelter, said: “We have taken necessary precautions, providing them masks and sanitizers. The actual capacity of this centre is around 400. But due to the pandemic, we have reduced it to 200.”

Debashish Tala, a resident of Contai, East Midnapore, did not go to any camp. He and his family have taken shelter in one of his relative’s house. “During cyclones usually we take shelter in the nearest primary school. But Covid cases are so high that I didn’t want to take the risk.”

Dipak Sahoo lives just 200 metres from the seashore of Mandarmani, a tourist spot. As there are no tourists in hotels, the local body has set up shelters there. 

“I am too worried to go there. Still waiting. If the situation turns very bad, there will be no option,” Dipak Sahoo said.

According to the India Meteorological Department, East Midnapore district will be the most affected by the cyclonic storm. To minimize casualties, NDRF teams have been deployed in coastal villages. 

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced  the evacuation of at least 10 lakh people across the state. The police and administration of East Midnapore are evacuating people to safer places.

Kunal Barnabas, a sub-divisional police officer of Contai, said: “Almost 80 per cent evacuation was done by May 24; the rest will be done today. In every camp, masks and sanitizer are available.” This time, more camps have been set up than the usual to ensure physical distancing.

Anupam Bera, an employee of Haldia-II gram panchayat, said: “We have set up 13 camps across the panchayat area which will accommodate at least 550 people. All camps have masks and sanitizers.”

According to IMD’s forecast, Yaas is expected to acutely affect the Bengal coast after crossing north of Odisha as a very severe cyclonic storm with a wind speed of 155 kmph to 165 kmph.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *