[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: Initial Reports of Damage from Cyclone Amphan (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity)

Jai Sen jai.sen at cacim.net
Mon May 25 18:40:05 CEST 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

Climate in movement…, India in movement…, Trade unions in movement…; Mother Earth in movement… ?    
"In Kultali, PBKMS members Purnachandra Sith …. says that a strange thing happened with the rain this time that he has not seen before. In his village of Baikunthapur in Moipith the leaves of all the vegetation have turned black and so did the pond waters…

[As I think is widely known (I say this again because I am increasingly getting the impression that ‘the news’ is also under assault these days, in some parts of the world, and there is – let’s say – ‘a huge and perhaps increasing differential’ between the news that is now appearing in different parts of the world…), the people of Bangladesh and India have been violently hit a few days ago by Cyclone Amphan

[I apologise for posting so late on this, but… I was buried under work for something else happening this past Saturday, and just wasn't able to keep up.

[Here is a ground-based report by a local mass organisation, the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (‘West Bengal Agricultural Workers Organisation’, in Bengali), on what the situation is in southern / coastal West Bengal (now, ‘Paschimbanga’).  (Signalling that this is only for this part of the cyclone-hit areas, and not for the others, especially the states of Odisha and Telengana in India, and Bangladesh) :

Initial Reports of Damage from Cyclone Amphan

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity

(‘West Bengal Agricultural Workers Organisation’, in Bengali)

            In solidarity with all that you are doing, friends and comrades in the PBKMS –



> Begin forwarded message:
> From: paschim banga khet majoor samity <pbkmswb at gmail.com>
> Subject: Initial Reports of Damage from Cyclone Amphan
> Date: May 25, 2020 at 3:36:14 AM EDT
> To: Anuradha Talwar <anuradhawb at gmail.com>
> Dear Friends,
> Here is a compiled report of updates we have received from PBKMS members in Sunderbans area with pictures and videos of the damage caused by Cyclone Amphan.
> https://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.com/2020/05/initial-reports-of-damage-from-cyclone_25.html <https://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.com/2020/05/initial-reports-of-damage-from-cyclone_25.html>
> Regards, 
> Paschimbanga Khetmajoor Samity
> -- 
> For more information about our work and struggles , please  look at our  blog site at http://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.com <http://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.com/>.

[Here are some extracts from the report, and of the initial text parts only.  Check the link for photos and videos - js :

Initial Reports of Damage from Cyclone Amphan

Preliminary reports have been trickling in from Pachimbanga Khetmajoor Samity (PBKMS) members of widespread damage and destruction. PBKMS has been organizing rural workers in the Sunderbans region of West Bengal for over 30 years now. We jumped into the fray as soon as the news of the trajectory of the cyclone was received, circulating helpline numbers and raising awareness about evacuation procedures, flood shelters and government guidelines. As the frightful storm progressed, however, phone lines went down. Vast areas of the affected regions of Bengal, including Kolkata and its adjoining suburbs are still without power. Our central office in Badu (Barasat) from where outreach and relief efforts are being coordinated has also been damaged by the cyclone. We are without electricity, water and phone connections.  Yesterday, we managed to get a preliminary picture of the extent of damage and destruction using intermittent network connections even as 70% of our members remain disconnected from the rest of the world. 

Fields are flooded with saline water which came gushing in when embankments broke. Even when some embankments managed to hold the surge, the storm surge raised the water many feet above the height of the embankments and water overflowed into low-lying islands.


The cyclone first made landfall in Sagar and Namkhana blocks. We have not been able to reach anyone in Sagar. PBKMS state committee member Khadeja Khatun is in Namkhana block. She called us for just a couple of minutes yesterday. There is no power and she is trying to preserve her battery. Networks come and go. She says after the storm entered, the concrete embankment broke at Fraserganj. Everything is flooded. 


As the storm moved north, in the islands that form Gosaba block to the east of Sagar and Namkhana, there are remote island villages such as Kumirmari and Satjeliya where a large number of houses, unlike in the rest of the Sunderbans, are still constructed from mud. These kaccha houses have all been severely damaged by the wind, heavy rains and flood waters. Ashok Mandal in Satjeliya says that luckily no embankments were breached in his gram panchayat but concrete embankments have broken in Bali-2 and Bipradaspur. 


Just north of Gosaba, in Basanti block, Alok Das a marginal farmer who also owns a small shop says that with the flooding of farmland and contamination of fish ponds almost 4500 families of the 6500 in his gram panchayat, Jharkhali, are devastated. 9 out of 10 houses have been destroyed. There is not a single house with the asbestos, tin or tile roof left standing. The gale force winds have taken all the roofs flying with them and just the walls of the houses remain. 


The breach of concrete embankments, that were built specially saying they would be more resilient after the devastation of Cyclone Aila in 2009 is everywhere says Kanai Haldar, state committee member who is coordinating PBKMS efforts throughout the region. Kanai says, “we are constantly playing catch up with the embankments, they are destroyed on one side, we rebuild and then they break on another side. Saline water constantly corrodes the bricks. Many of these houses with the tin and tile roofs are houses that were paid for by the government housing assistance scheme, Indira Awaas Yojana (or now Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin)) but these roofs are in no way suitable for the climatic conditions we face with tropical storms and cyclones.” 


North of Namkhana and Sagar, is Patharpratima. We have not been able to reach people in any of the island villages there.


Further north in Mathurapur-2, in Nagendrapur, PBKMS member Ruhit Mondal reports that embankments have been breached in Domkal Chatterjeepara while in Bhangarkhal the storm surge crossed the embankment and flooded the island. In Kankandighi, brick embankments broke in 3 different places. The PBKMS field center in Raidighi has been completely destroyed and PBKMS activist Namita Halder had to find shelter for the night of the storm. 


In Kultali, PBKMS members Purnachandra Sith and Deepak Mondal reported embankment breaches in 5 panchayats; Moipith, Bhubaneshwari, Deulbari-Debipur, Kaikhali, and Purba Gurguria. Purnchandra Sith says that a strange thing happened with the rain this time that he has not seen before. In his village of Baikunthapur in Moipith the leaves of all the vegetation have turned black and so did the pond waters. Maya Das, member of a self help group, told us that there were no broken embankments in Gopalganj G.P. but a lot of wind damage. 


[Extracts only.  Check full report at link for the full text.


Jai Sen

Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of Ottawa

jai.sen at cacim.net <mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded and unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) 

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