At least 82 were killed and more than 1,000,000 people left homeless as a cyclone spawned by a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal pounded large parts of West Bengal and coastal Orissa on Monday leaving a trail of devastation and crippling normal life in the two states. Codenamed "Aila", the cyclonic storm broke open hundreds of man-made hedges, and let the sea water surge into thousands of homes in southern part of West Bengal. The highest number of 14 deaths in West Bengal was reported from South 24 Parganas district, followed by five in Kolkata.
As on 27 May, Aila has withered away but not before the beast worked its way up the spine of Bengal and wreaked havoc till the tip of the state in Darjeeling.
By 7.30pm on Tuesday, (2.00 p.m. GMT) all that was left of the remnant of the cyclone was a low-pressure formation in a trough over north Bengal. A low-pressure formation can cause scattered rain, not widespread destruction like a cyclone.
But before Aila transformed itself into a far less potent form, it had killed at least 82 people and rendered lakhs homeless. Aila’s trail bound the south Bengal coast to the northern hills in a serpentine ribbon of destruction with as many as 20 deaths reported in Darjeeling in landslides triggered by the cyclone.
Aila also accelerated the advance of the monsoon and forced the rainy season’s early arrival in Bengal last night, 14 days earlier than usual. But weather analysts said the monsoon could be weaker for the initial fortnight because the cyclone, which covered 950km in 48 hours since it formed on Sunday evening, could have devoured much of its energy.
Climatologists and weather analysts blamed the long life and ferocity of Aila on global warming.
The tropical seas pack more heat now, compared with 15 years ago, because of global warming. “That energy is absorbed by the moisture in the cyclone which has to spend it all before dissipation. Because of the increased heat, tropical cyclones like Aila will continue to last longer and be a lot more violent than even a decade or two ago,” said geographer Satyesh Chakraborty.
Calcutta, however, saw a more or less clear day with only 2mm of rain till 5.30pm. “We had anticipated heavy rainfall over south Bengal today as well. As it turned out, Aila dragged along with it most of the rain clouds over south Bengal and cleared the sky over Calcutta and the south Bengal districts,” said G.C. Debnath, the director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Alipore.
Going by what happened today in south Bengal, weather officials held out hope of respite for north Bengal over the next 24 hours. However, heavy rain and thundershower have been forecast at many places in the Northeast.
(With inputs from Finacial Times and The Telegraph)