Protests erupt in Kolkata over slow Indian government post-cyclone response

Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India since 1999. Above, a bus damaged by a fallen tree due to Amphan in Kolkata on May 21, 2020 (ANI via Reuters)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Protests erupt in Kolkata over slow Indian government post-cyclone response

  • With many areas still flooded and electricity still cut by the storm, Kolkata residents vented their anger for a second day

KOLKATA: Thousands took to the streets of the Indian city of Kolkata on Saturday to protest against what they said was the slow government response to power cuts and flooding after a devastating “super cyclone.”
The death toll in India and Bangladesh from Cyclone Amphan’s rampage along the Bay of Bengal coast rose to at least 112 on Saturday, as authorities struggled to deal with the aftermath of the storm while also trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
With many areas still flooded and electricity still cut by the storm, Kolkata residents vented their anger for a second day, demanding faster action to get the city of 15 million people working again.
Police said more than 5,000 people took part in different demonstrations early Saturday while witnesses said there were more.
The storm knocked out transformer stations setting off spectacular explosions across Kolkata. About 20 people were killed in the city, many of them electrocuted after venturing into the floods.
Many streets are still blocked by trees and water, and engineers are struggling to get to some parts to restore power.
“The coronavirus made our lives miserable, Cyclone Amphan turned it into hell,” Subash Biswas, principal of a state-run college in Kolkata said.
Cyclone Amphan was the fiercest storm to hit India and Bangladesh since 1999. At least 86 people are now reported dead in India and 26 in Bangladesh.
The toll was much less than previous storms in recent decades, which sometimes claimed thousands of lives. About three million people were moved away from the coast before Amphan struck.
Kolkata’s municipal chairman Firhad Hakim has warned that “it will take at five to six days to pump out the water from streets, to clear the uprooted trees and restore the water supply.”
Authorities are also trying to clear floodwater from Kolkata airport before domestic flights resume across India on Monday after a two-month coronavirus shutdown.
State disaster minister Javed Khan said that hundreds of villages had been flooded after more than 70 kilometers of river embankments were washed away.
“The devastation was so intense that many areas remain inaccessible even three days after the cyclone,” he said.
The United Nations has warned that the saltwater which flooded inland areas could affect local agriculture for up to three years.


New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

Updated 22 min 3 sec ago

New coronavirus cases in Hong Kong raise concerns of local cluster

  • The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse
  • The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday

HONG KONG: A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. The first two cases in the cluster — a husband and wife — were confirmed on Sunday. Since then four neighbors, two of the wife’s work colleagues, and a fire department medical officer who had sent the woman to hospital have been confirmed to have been infected. None had been abroad recently.
“We are very concerned about this cluster of nine,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told her weekly news conference on Tuesday, before an executive council meeting.
The infected woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse, where she labels food items imported from Britain, local media reported.
The government was expected to extend a ban on group gatherings larger than eight later on Tuesday. It was due to expire at the end of Thursday, and has been extended several times for two-week periods.
The limits on the size of gatherings prompted police to reject for the first time an application of the annual vigil tens of thousands of Hong Kong people traditionally hold in a downtown park to commemorate pro-democracy protesters killed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 31 years ago.
A further extension is also likely to thwart plans for legally organizing anniversary marches of the anti-government protests that started in June last year and resumed recently after Beijing announced plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong.
Lam has repeatedly said health measures had no political motive. On Tuesday, she said they were not about “taking away people’s freedom,” but about protecting people, adding that public health was “also part of national security.”
As of Monday, Hong Kong had reported 1,088 coronavirus cases and four deaths.