Kolkata: Specialised disaster management teams of the NDRF are rendering help in the massive clean-up operation in cyclone-hit West Bengal.
The NDRF personnel, dressed in bright-orange outfits, are working round the clock to restore normalcy in the state, where Cyclone Amphan has thrown life out of gear, flattening houses, uprooting trees and snapping power cables, senior officials of the force said.
A total of 38 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been deployed in various parts of the state, 19 alone in Kolkata, with sophisticated tools and equipment to speed up the rehabilitation work, said Nisheeth Upadhyay, an NDRF commandant.
“The cyclone has caused huge devastation in Bengal, not just in the coastal areas but in the state capital too. In the city, we are working alongside Kolkata Municipal Corporation officials, who are helping us with directions to the affected areas.
“In the districts, too, our teams have shifted people from low-lying areas to safety, provided them with necessary medical aid,” Upadhayay, the commandant of NDRF second battalion, told PTI. The battalion commandant also said that advance deployment of personnel in six districts of the state helped ensure minimal loss of lives.
“We carried out the evacuation operation on time. Not just that, we used public address systems to carry out an awareness programme in local languages in rural areas before the cyclone struck. Fishermen in the coastal areas were told not to venture out into the sea,” he noted.
Upadhayay contended that almost all arterial roads in Kolkata and its adjoining districts have been cleared, and felled trees removed.
“The NDRF personnel are working all night with light-mounted helmets. The teams are equipped with modern tools and equipment, such as gasoline cutters, to carry out the relief work. We will do everything possible to ensure people are not inconvenienced. That’s our job,” he said.
Vijay Sinha, the commandant of NDRF first battalion, said five teams from Patna, each consisting of 25-30 personnel, are undertaking restoration work on a war footing in Bengal with state-of-the-art equipment such as life detectors and victim location camera. “Upon suspicion that somebody is lying under debris, the personnel use life detector instruments which can detect the heart beat of a person.
After detection, a two or three-inch hole is made in the heap and the VLC is inserted to locate and rescue a person lying under the rubble.
“These instruments had helped a lot while carrying rescue operation after a massive earthquake shook Nepal and Bihar in 2015,” he told PTI.
Sinha also said his team members are carrying MFR (medical first responder) kits with them to provide immediate medical assistance to pregnant women, or those suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
Asked about the major challenges encountered by the NDRF in its operation, Upadhayay said, “We are exercising caution to ensure that our personnel, or for that matter the common people, do not get exposed to COVID-19.
“Some people were initially reluctant to move to cyclone shelters, partly because they were scared of contracting COVID-19. We successfully convinced them to shift to the camps, while also ensuring sanitisers and masks were available for their safety,” he explained.
Over 80 people died and lakhs were rendered homeless as cyclone Amphan cut a path of destruction through half-a-dozen districts of West Bengal, including state capital Kolkata, on Wednesday night, blowing away shanties, and swamping low-lying areas.
The NDRF commandant further said that the state government lent all possible help and support to the force to carry out the clean-up operation.
“We have specialised vehicles to reach the remotest corners. For Sagar island, however, the state provided us with vessels. The NDRF and the state administration are working together to tide over the crisis,” he added.