Ground Report: Cyclone ‘Yaas’ Destroyed Homes & Livelihood of Many

Cyclone Yaas aftermath in Bengal: Over 20,000 locals lost their only source of income in Howrah’s Shyampur block. 

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Video Editor: Mohd Irshad
Producer: Zijah Sherwani

Suryakant Santra shudders when he thinks of the moment when, the brick kiln he was working in erupted like a volcano during the severe Cyclone Yaas, on Wednesday, 26 May.

The 22-year-old who stays at Kamalpur village off Shyampur block in Howrah district of West Bengal has been a brick kiln worker for the past three years. But had never witnessed something like that before, “It was like a volcano erupting out of the kiln when the ferocious cyclone, along with heavy rainfall and strong winds, hit our village. I rushed out to save my life.”


Loss of Livelihood: Brick Kilns Suffer Severe Damage

“The cyclone has devoured my livelihood, as thousands of bricks have already been submerged under water. The kiln owner has suffered severe losses and he will either hold the payment or make a job cut.”
Suryakant Santra, Brick kiln worker

But he is not alone. Over 20,000 workers employed in 300 brick kilns in Shyampur block have lost their livelihood at one stroke, as a chunk of the units have sustained severe damage, in the cyclone that ravaged West Bengal, Odisha, and Jharkhand on 26 May.

Situated on the bank of the river Rupnaryan bordering East Medinipur and Howrah district, most of the people in Shyampur block work as daily labourers in brick kilns, earning Rs 400 per day after toiling for eight hours.

“Brick kilns are the mainstay of this area for thousands of locals but we have suffered massive losses. Flood water has damaged the bricks and the mud. Nobody from the administration has come to enquire about our plight.”
Ashok Das, 41, a brick kiln manager in Shyampur

Locals Recall the Horror

Villagers in Shyampur block who reside close to the river have horrific tales of the storm that turned their lives upside down. They claim that the fury was fiercer than cyclone Amphan that had hit Bengal last year.

“It was around 11 am on Wednesday when the earthen embankment of the river gave away and the water started gushing into our houses. It was so quick that we didn’t get time to collect valuables and documents from our houses. The house was completely flooded with water within a few minutes.’’
Kumkum Kabri, 50, Kamalpur Village

Kumkum Kabri’s eldest son had gone to the fields but he rushed to a safe place just in time. She cries while thanking God that her son is safe but all her savings are lost.

Jharna Samanta, 35, a homemaker almost broke down while recollecting the moment when the cyclone struck.

“I had never seen something like that before. The water flooded our homes and the books of my children got destroyed in it. I could do nothing to save them. We have no food, water, and electricity in the house. We have been provided food by the locals. Even snake has entered our house, which has created panic.’’
Jharna Samanta, 35, Kamalpur Village

The cyclone has caused severe damage to the coastal areas of Bengal and Odisha before moving to Jharkhand. Several thousands of trees and houses have been destroyed in various parts of Bengal, besides the loss of livestock.

“I had two cows that I milked for livelihood. But they perished in the swelling water of the river. I didn’t get time to save them. I have lost my livelihood. Nobody has come to my help.”
Raju Patra, 32, Amberia Village

Affected People Shifted to Schools

Villagers whose houses have collapsed during the cyclone have been relocated to schools and offered food and water.

Twenty-five-year-old Asmita Das has been relocated to a primary school at Purulpura village in Shyampur. She requests a long-term solution, as she has no place to go back to after the administration’s free aid ends.

“We have been reduced to paupers by the cyclone, as my house has been washed away in the river. The administration has shifted us here but it will end once the situation turns normal. We have no houses to go to. We have lost everything.”
Asmita Das, 25, Shyampur

Doctors say that bleaching powder and other material have been distributed in the affected areas to stop the spread of vector-borne diseases.

“We are keeping a close eye on the situation to prevent the spread of diseases. We had started making preparations in advance, anticipating the situation. Our health workers are also visiting the people temporarily housed in schools and have been providing them with medicines.’’
Pradip Kumar Mal, Doctor, Kamalpur Rural Hospital

Shyampur block of Howrah district has 10 Gram Panchayats and 28 Health Centres, which were prepared in advance for relief work. Cyclone Yaas has disrupted the power supply in almost 14 districts in Bengal, including the Kamalpur Rural Hospital at Shyampur.

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