Kolkata, May 26 (IANS) Soldiers of the Indian Army and other relief workers Tuesday managed to reach the worst-hit areas of West Bengal's Sundarbans delta where more than 400,000 people were marooned due to cyclone Aila Monday. The death toll in the cyclone has reached 27, police said.
'The relief operations started this (Tuesday) morning to reach assistance to over four lakh people in the mangrove-forested region. Due to choppy river and stormy weather condition, no relief work could begin yesterday (Monday),' state Sundarbans Affairs Minister Kanti Ganguly said.
'We were just helpless before the wrath of nature,' he added.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Tuesday rushed to the cyclone-affected islands of the Sundarbans. He held meetings with senior district administration officials and the police at Nimpith village to chalk out plans to provide assistance to thousands of people in the mangrove forests of the delta.
'Don't drink contaminated water. I request all of you to only take water from the deep tubewells. I have held meetings with district officials and ensured that you will all get compensation for the damage that took place because of yesterday's cyclone,' Bhattacharjee told villagers at a relief camp near Jamtala in South 24 Parganas district.
According to defence sources, two columns of army, each comprising 100 soldiers, were sent to the Sundarbans for carrying out relief operations. Food packets were also air-dropped in cyclone-hit areas of South 24 Parganas district.
Trinamool Congress chief and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee also cancelled her trip to the national capital and asked her party members to stay in the state.
Meanwhile, according to police sources, more than eight landslides took place in different parts of Darjeeling hills, with road connectivity between Siliguri town and Kalimpong virtually cut off because of the landslides.
The district administration and police are carrying out rescue operations since Tuesday morning, police said.
Train services were badly hit in both Eastern Railways (ER) and South Eastern Railways (SER) zones. A number of long-distance and local trains were cancelled due to the effects of the cyclone.
Telephone and mobile networks, ATMs, broadband services and cable television networks were hit across Kolkata and its adjoining districts.