A day after cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ ravaged parts of Odisha, killing at least 12 people, a massive restoration and relief work was launched on war-footing on Saturday across 10,000 villages and urban areas, officials said.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm, which made landfall at Puri on Friday, unleashed copious rain and windstorm that gusted up to 200 kmph, blowing away thatched roofs of houses, swamped towns and villages, before weakening and entering West Bengal, they said.
The death toll due to the calamity, which stood at eight on Friday, mounted to 12 with four fresh casualties reported from Mayurbhanj district, the officials said, adding, detailed information from many areas was still awaited.
All the four people were killed after uprooted trees fell on them at different places in Baripada, the emergency officer of Mayurbhanj district, S K Pati, said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and discussed the prevailing situation in the aftermath of the cyclone’s landfall in the coastal state.
The prime minister assured continuous support from the central government. “Spoke to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Ji and discussed the situation prevailing due to Cyclone Fani.
Assured continuous support from the Central Government … The entire nation stands in solidarity with all those affected by the cyclone in different parts,” Modi said in a tweet.
Though the “extremely severe” cyclone weakened into a “very severe” cyclonic storm in a few hours, it flattened houses with thatched roofs and kutcha houses, uprooted scores of trees, electric poles and mobile towers in coastal Odisha, with the seaside pilgrim town of Puri being the worst hit.
Patnaik, after reviewing the situation on Friday night, had said that Puri district suffered huge damage. “Energy infrastructure has been completely destroyed. Restoration of electricity is a challenging task,” he had said.
Hundreds of engineers and technicians are working to restore power supply, the officials said. Work is on to restore road communication, thrown into disarray with thousands of uprooted trees blocking the way in innumerable places, Patnaik said.
Men and machinery of the NDRF, the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire services swung into action and launched a massive restoration work to bring back normalcy, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), B P Sethi, said.
Odisha Energy Secretary Hemanth Sharma said around 30 lakh power consumers have been affected by the cyclone, which threw electricity distribution infrastructure out of gear in most coastal districts. Restoration work is on in full swing, he said.
In Bhubaneswar city itself, over 10,000 electric poles have been uprooted or broken, he said, adding, efforts are on to restore power supply in 25 per cent crucial sectors such as the airport, the railway station and hospitals.
Another 25 per cent work will be completed on Sunday and efforts are on to restore complete normalcy at the earliest, Sharma said. The power network had been severely damaged in districts such as Puri, Khurda, Ganjam, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Balasore.
The Quick Action Team (QRT) of the premier naval training establishment, INS Chilka, was immediately deployed to provide emergency assistance in cutting and clearing trees in some areas, said an official.
A naval Dornier aircraft carried out an aerial survey and found extensive damaged to vegetation in many places around Puri. Large-scale water inundation was observed in many places, particularly in low-lying areas between Puri and Chilka lake, he said.
The chief minister said nearly 12 lakh people were evacuated and shifted to safer locations from about 10,000 villages and 52 urban agglomerations, 24 hours ahead of the cyclone, “probably the largest such exercise at the time of a natural calamity in the country”.
The evacuees have been accommodated in over 4,000 shelters, including 880 specially-designed cyclone centres, he said. Cooked food is being served to them for free.
The cyclone, after the landfall, passed through Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore before entering West Bengal, the SRC said, adding, Bhubaneswar city was hit by high-velocity winds of around 140 kmph.
Telecommunication lines got snapped in several parts of the state capital and other areas. Summer crops, orchards and plantations also suffered huge damage, he said.
Around 220 trains on the Howrah-Chennai route have been cancelled in view of passengers’ safety, an East Coast Railway (ECoR) official said.