College Street, Alipore zoo bear cyclone brunt as Kolkata Mayor says city needs a week to recover

A large part of the state capital has been without electricity and internet connection for more than 48 hours. All major thoroughfares are still unusable because of uprooted trees.

Published: 23rd May 2020 03:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd May 2020 09:02 AM   |  A+A-

Municipal workers chop an uprooted tree to clear a street in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata Friday May 22 2020. (Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

KOLKATA: Cyclone ravaged Kolkata will take at least a week to return to normal after more than 5,500 trees and 2,500 electric poles were uprooted, said Firhad Hakim, the mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

A large part of the state capital has been without electricity and internet connection for more than 48 hours. All major thoroughfares are still unusable because of uprooted trees. Irate residents staged demonstrations and put up roadblocks at more than a dozen places demanding restoration of electricity and supply of drinking water.

"There are a few pockets where streets are still submerged. Water could not be pumped out because of power cut. The Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) has been asked to restore power in pumping stations in those areas," Hakim added.

According to him, removing trees at many places could not be possible on Friday because CESC’s overhead wires, which got snapped during the cyclone, were wrapped around the tree branches. CM Mamata Banerjee asked CESC to hire additional men to remove the wires.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams comprising 27 personnel have been engaged to remove tree trunks. Residents of Kamalgazi, situated in the city’s southern part, put up a roadblock on the Eastern Metropolitan (EM) Bypass, demanding drinking water.

Water entered closed outlets of booksellers, publishers and binders of the historic College Street, and damaged printed books and pages ready for binding, causing losses to the tune of lakhs of rupees, an official said on Friday.

The apex body of publishers and booksellers of the state said they will soon hold a meeting and may have to seek help from the state government to bail them out as the cyclone dealt a fresh blow to the business after the two-month-long lockdown.

"If you consider the waterlogging inside publishing units and shops which caused serious damage to printed books, the losses could be into lakhs," Apu Dey, a key member of the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, told the media.

"However, if you also take into account the seeping of water book binding units as well, where printed pages are bound in volumes, the losses can be more, may run into a crore," he said.

Dey said the COVID-19 induced lockdown had stalled publications before the Bengali New Year on April 14, and now cyclone Amphan has turned things difficult for publishers and booksellers of College Street.

Dotted with makeshift bookstalls along both sides of the road, College Street is a one-of-a-kind book market in the world that draws locals and tourists alike from every nook and cranny of the globe.

According to an estimate, around 100 big and small publishers and over 200 shops sell books on various subjects - fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, second-hand books.

Besides, there are stalls that sell all paper stationery items.

Images of books floating on the waterlogged street on Thursday morning have gone viral on social media.

"Our world is tremendously affected. The first attack was by Covid-19, followed by two months of lockdown and then Amphan! Thousands of books kept in locked book stores have been soiled," Guild President Tridib Chatterjee said.

The Deb Sahitya Kutir, an old publishing house, said it has incurred heavy losses as thousands of printed pages ready for binding were damaged, besides printed books, as water seeped below closed shutters.

"We are not in a position now to calculate the losses. It will take months to recover," Rupa Majumder said on behalf of the Deb Sahitya Kutir.

A 50-something man was seen sitting near his pavement stall staring at textbooks that got soaked and damaged in rainwater.

"I am finished," he uttered.

While some publishers and store owners could rush to College Street to check the damage done by the cyclone, many who live in the districts could not as trains are not running because of the lockdown, said Dey.

The history of College Street goes back to the time when the Hindu College was established in 1817, which was later renamed as the Presidency College.

Other major educational institutions also came up along the stretch during the 19th century.

While the Calcutta University was established in 1857, the Hindu School came up in 1817, the Hare School in 1818 and the Sanskrit College in 1824.

The cyclone didn't spare the Alipore Zoological Gardens either as damaged deer enclosure and uprooted trees, many of them over 50 years old, found inside the premises on Friday but the animals were not harmed, a top zoo official said.

Tigers, lions, leopards, chimpanzees were seemingly unaffected by the cyclone as they were within the confines of their cages while zebras and giraffes seemed to be a bit restive out in their open enclosures, the official said on Thursday.

Portions of walls of the enclosures for ostriches and deer were damaged but all the animals were safe, he said.

"On Thursday they (zebras and giraffes) showed a decreased appetite as they might have been scared of the whistling sound of strong winds and the situation around.

This is a temporary phenomenon as the animals are healthy otherwise," he said.

The staff is working round-the-clock to monitor the condition of animals, zoo director Asis Samanta said.

At least 35 trees were uprooted as the cyclone ravaged the city on Wednesday.

The zoo authorities had to immediately cut an uprooted tree trank which fell into a crocodile enclosure on Wednesday evening so that crocs could not climb onto it and come out, the zoo director said.

"We hope to clear the tree logs cluttered in the premises within a day," Samanta said.

The zoo has remained closed since mid-March in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown.

Established in 1876, the Alipore zoo presently houses 1,100 wild animals including tigers, lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, giraffes and birds.

(With PTI Inputs)

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