Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cyclone AILA and Sector-V

A very boring title for my blog - I suppose it could have been a lot more grandiose to give you an idea just how bad the devastation caused by AILA was. But I guess you can read all about the destruction and havoc that occurred on the 25th of May 2009 almost anywhere on the net (complete with statistics and 1st hand eye witness reports etc. etc.)

Me, I just wanna show you what it all looked like in Sector-V (or at least in my section of Sector-V - the Block EP and GP area) AFTER Aila was so gracious enough to leave us for the northern parts of West Bengal (via Howrah et al).
It's so funny, the 24th (The previous day) was a Sunday and it was like raining the entire day - and here I was thinking "OK, the Monsoon's here - and now it's gonna be hell getting to work, what with the flooding and all). I had even gone out to watch Monsters Vs. Aliens in the afternoon with my cousin bro Bumba and sis-in-law Debina in the rain, not even realising that the next day was going to be Kaos in Kolkata :)

I woke up on Monday (after spending most of Sunday night watching the final day of this season's English Premier League) - late as usual I might add... I didn't read the papers - I didn't watch the news - I basically had NO idea what was just about to hit us.

Big mistake. Big big mistake.

It wasn't even very cloudy going to work. Very windy yes, but no rain - just a drizzle while on the bus (if I remember correctly). And I'm inside office early as usual. 9:25 AM.

Cut to 11:00 AM - raining like hell outside and AILA has broken loose.

By 11:30 AM gossip/news from everyone everywhere (tough filtering and sifting through the facts when they all hit you in the face at the same time) and I am hearing about this cyclone and how there's been a city-wide warning about how people should be inside their homes and should not be venturing out.

12 noon - the entire office knows about AILA now. People have basically stopped working and everyone is surfing weather reports on the net or listening to FM radio for details. It's actually very funny seeing everyone like this. And the drama king that I am, I can't help but NOT make jokes about how we have to build ships to reach home or how we should ration our lunches because we probably WILL NOT be reaching home at all :)

Anyway, 1:00 PM and it is pouring and the wind is howling. Every so often I open the window and boy, is that wind blowing! And I can see people flying, I mean it - literally being dragged by the wind outside. Poor souls. Lotsa pretty women too running after their umbrellas. Brollies are no use in this weather at all.

Phone home a few times - Mom is worred. Phone Baba, he's at work but thank god he's aware of the situation. He wants to send the car to pick me up - and I refuse, because I can see that the usual stretch in front of the Omega Building + Megatherm + Infinity Building + RDB Boulevard is already flooded big time.

At 2:00 PM during the roughest part of the storm, I convince Shrewam to take out his car and to brave the journey. We reach as far as the underground parking area of the RDB Boulevard, but Samit and the parking attendant discourage him from venturing out. And it is pretty bad (although Bina and Anup did just leave 15 minutes prior) - the road in front of the Systron Building and the RDB Boulevard looks like a war-zone - trees uprooted, and an electric pole lying in the middle of the road. Things looks very very bad.

Anyway, am back at office but not for long.

3:00 PM - the rain has stopped finally (for how long, I have no idea!) and I have finally convinced a few of the Venturi idiots to leave with me.

3:30 PM - most people have decided to make a dash for home now, because the MET office says that this is just the lull before the storm. Unfortunately it doesn't look like there's gonna be any space in any of the cars. So me Arindam, Manasi and Sanjay decide to leg it 'till we get a taxi. In the rain (yes it's started to rain again). No other option.

We walk 'till Nicco Park - I graciously refuse a lift from Debayan/Debdipto. Manasi has to take off her heels and walk barefoot after a point in time. And it's totally madness now in Sector-V - like the exodus of the Jews... or maybe like during the partition when people were shifting sides to India/Pakistan/Bangladesh. (was that excessive)
There are people walking EVERYWHERE. Hardly any buses (which are packed like sardines anyway). No TAXIS. All private cars are full to the brim. Uprooted trees on the road (well 2 to be precise) and a portion of the Nicco Park wall broken down. And people. Everywhere. Just walking. Actually, this reminds me of the video of the REM song "Everybody Hurts" - see it to know what I mean.

Plan A - walk till Nicco Park and we'd be sure to get a cab.
Plan A - zilch.

Plan B - walk till Chingrighata and we'd be sure to get a cab there.

We dumped Plan B. And opted for Plan C instead.

When we reached Nicco Park, not only did we see NO taxis, we saw another ocean of humanity standing in the middle of the road! And there was this funny scene we saw where this female stops a Skypak courier van and makes the driver give her a lift... and suddenly a whole bunch of desperate software nerds jump on to the van and whoosh! Taxi service for the desperate!

So going down to Chingrighata would have actually ended up being a disaster and thank god we didn't do so. Arindam and me then decide on Plan C which is to get inside the heart of Salt Lake (via Ishita Dasgupta's bridge - well it's not HER bridge, but I like to say so just to make things more identifiable for everyone concerned).
This of course means more walking. In the rain. It's past 4 PM already.

We walk and we get wet. And we generally enjoy the wind et al. And we walk some more.
Until we are finally on the Beleghata connector at the EZCC bus-stand.

So now more decisions -
Plan D: do we stay here and try and haul a cab.
Plan E: do we walk down to the AMRI hospital (you always get cabs from hospital areas!)
Plan F: do we walk down to Hotel Hyatt (you always get cabs from 5-star deluxe hotel areas!)
Decisions decisions.

Anyway, we finally opt for Plan D - and we literally hijack a passing cab and force the cab-driver to take us down South (that is South Kolkata). And on the way (once we are on the EM Bypass) we are witness to the carnage that has taken place prior to our departure from Sector-V.

The EM Bypass is a mess - trees uprooted everywhere, people walking and walking and walking, signboards torn to shreds (and in some cases blown away), adjacent neighbourhoods under water. People walking and walking. Oh btw did I mention the people? :)) Some guys were actually standing in the middle of the road trying to forcefuly stop cars to get a free ride. It was pretty brutal where-ever I looked. And all this in the rain too.

Anyway I reached home @ approx. 5 PM. No power. But we were the lucky ones. The power failure which had started in the afternoon was back to normal before 6 PM. For most parts of Kolkata however, things were very very different. Unfortunately. I won't go into the gory details. But I will say this - if Kolkata is hit by a bigger cyclone than AILA in the future then we are so so screwed. The Disaster Management of our city failed BIG TIME. In fact I seriously doubt we even have a working Disaster Management team for our city. The chaos caused by AIULA should never have happened and the mess should have been cleaned up within hours. Sadly things are still screwed up in some parts of the city almost 3 weeks after this disaster.

The 26th of May 2009. Tuesday.
I am back to work @ Sector-V. And from the snaps posted all around you can get an idea of what I saw all around me that day (and the next day as well).
For the record - it took whoever was in charge 2 freaking DAYS to clear up the 2 uprooted electric poles. The general mess was cleaned up in approx. 24 hours - but even that is too long considering that Kolkata's Sector-V is supposed to be the HUB of West Bengal's INFORMATION and TECHNOLOGY industry.
Anyway enjoy the snaps that have been pasted randomly (courtesy monsieurs Shantanu K. Roy and Arindam Banerjee - and moi). These were snapped on the 26th and 27th of May.


panu said...

WOW. the pics are a revelation.

Gang said...

Well...great description....but knw that the situation wouldnt have been that great...will follow your posts from now on...tell me more about My Kolkata, shitt!!! Miss it too much...