Even as tremors of the massive earthquake in Indonesia were felt in the city on Wednesday, an alert was issued for the coastal areas in West Bengal asking fishermen and tourists not to venture into the sea. Soon after her return from New Delhi, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to the people to stay calm.
The tremors triggered panic in the city. People rushed out of offices and high-rise buildings onto the streets below soon after the tremors were first felt at around 2 p.m. Just as matters settled and the crowds returned, a second round of tremors at around 4 p.m. resulted in yet another exodus.
As a precautionary measure, services of the Metro Railway — a long stretch of which is underground — were suspended for nearly an hour. All trains were halted at the closest station and passengers were asked to leave the premises immediately. According to a press release issued by the Metro authorities, engineers conducted a check before services were resumed at 3.30 p.m.
“There is an all-India alert in the coastal areas and our coastal areas — Digha, the Sunderbans and the others have been put on alert…The State government can only issue a warning. I appeal to the people to be alert,” Ms. Banerjee told journalists at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.
She said the District Magistrates, Block Development Officers and district administration of these areas had been alerted.
The district administration of North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Purba and Paschim Medinipur districts were asked to sound the alert to fishermen and tourists.
A few buildings in the city developed minor cracks, but no major damage to life or property has been reported.
“It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of the tremors experienced in Kolkata, but we can say that they were mild. Since the epicentre was a large distance away, there is no need to panic or fear about any major aftershocks,” said G.C. Debnath, director of the weather section of the meteorological centre.