There were warnings all around. Sirens wailing, microphones blaring. Like other residents of Sundarban’s Bali Island, Paritosh Biswas too had no other option but to leave his house. He waited anxiously at a nearby cliff with his family. “We have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “The water engulfed the village in an hour.”
Beginning on 26 May, Cyclone Yaas, classified as a “very severe cyclonic storm” wreaked havoc on the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal, for three days. Tidal waves lashed coastal villages and torrential rains battered neighbouring areas. As the seawater kept gushing into homes, farmlands and fishponds by surpassing or breaching embankments that came its way, thousands of people lost their belongings and livelihoods. The cyclone hit 60 lakh people across 11,000 villages in Odisha. In West Bengal, three lakh houses were damaged and one crore people affected. The Sundarbans region, a tidal delta in Bengal, was severely impacted. More than one month on, farmers are struggling to cope with the loss to their livelihoods.
By the time the high tide had receded at Biswas’s village and he rushed to check on his house and farms, everything was gone. His house was submerged in knee-deep water. His family’s belongings, food, the twelve sacks of harvested paddy he had stored for later use, his school-going son’s books—nothing remained intact.