Super cyclone Amphan that created havoc in many districts of south Bengal has claimed 72 lives till now, said chief minister Mamata Banerjee while announcing an ex-gratia of Rs 2.5 lakh for the family members of the deceased and creating a Rs 1000 crore fund for undertaking relief and restoration work.

She urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the affected areas for assessing the damage and sought assistance to rebuild everything.

She said that she would try to conduct an aerial survey of the most affected districts of North and South 24 Parganas on Saturday and asked ministers to visit all the districts.

Union home minister Amit Shah called up this afternoon to enquire about the situation in Bengal and assured of all help to the state for undertaking relief and rescue operations, said Miss Banerjee.

Miss Banerjee said that she is hopeful of receiving Central assistance but would not get into any kind of controversy at this moment of crisis.

“After spending Rs 55,000 crore as debt repayment, bearing the huge cost for accommodating three to four lakh migrant workers in quarantine centres and creating infrastructure to combat Covid-19, we have managed to continue with all social schemes and salaries of government employees though there was no economic activities in the last two months. Now, we have been hit by a disaster that is much bigger than Corona. The cyclone created havoc across 400 kilometres, blowing up shanties, uprooting thousands of trees besides swamping low-lying areas. We are taking this as a challenge and will fight like a war-like situation,” said Miss Banerjee at a Press Conference after holding a meeting with senior bureaucrats and ministers and officials of all departments at Nabanna Sabhaghar.

“I have never witnessed such a big disaster. We have heard that a similar disaster occurred in 1737 which claimed several people. Thank God we evacuated over five lakh people to safer locations. Seven to eight districts are fully damaged and in four to five districts there is complete disaster. It is a big loss to us. I request all to extend their help during this hour of crisis,” said Miss Banerjee.

Miss Banerjee today formed a taskforce headed by chief secretary Rajiva Sinha for planning relief and restoration work.

The preliminary report on the damage is being prepared by the district magistrates.

The state agriculture department has been asked to conduct field level surveys to assess the extent of crop damage and identify agricultural plots that have been destroyed.

Along with this, the department will conduct a block-level survey with the departments of panchayat, fisheries, animal resources development, horticulture, food and food processing and prepare a report within seven days on the extent of damage and plan-of-action.

Miss Banerjee told PWD officials that in view of the current economic condition of the state, funds should be spent judiciously while undertaking restoration work.

She asked PWD not to go for patchworks on roads and instead rebuild roads such that these sustain for at least three to four years.

She even asked district officials to undertake work of clearing ponds, uprooted trees and debris under the MGNREGA. Arranging drinking water facilities should be done immediately along with restoration of electricity, she added.

Detailing the 72 deaths, Miss Banerjee said 15 people died in Kolkata and 57 died in the districts including seven in Howrah, 17 in North 24 Parganas, six in East Midnapore, two in Chandannagore Police Commissionerate, six in Baruipur, eight in Diamond Harbour, six in Bongaon and six in Ranaghat.

In the city, casualties were recorded from Beniapukur, Reform Street, Girish Park, Manicktala, Bhawanipore, Watgunge, Kalakar Street, Vivekananda Road, Tiljala, Jorasankho and Regent Park.