At least three major towns including the district headquarters of Chatrapur, Gopalpur-on-Sea and Chikiti were virtually cut off, as heavy rains lashed this region after the super-cyclone Phailin crossed the coast on Saturday evening.
The cyclone made landfall near Gopalpur-on-Sea at around 9 p.m., about 20 km away from Berhampur on Saturday, and the heavy rain and gale left behind 2.5 lakh ‘kutcha’ and ‘semi-pucca’ houses damaged and uprooting thousands of trees across roads. Relief was writ large on the faces of thousands of government officials and rescue workers as it came to know that lives were not destroyed as much they initially feared. The death toll remained static at two, those who were killed on Saturday.
Ganjam Collector Kishan Kumar said that from Saturday afternoon onwards, an estimated 1.82 lakh people were evacuated and the total number of those accommodated at cyclone shelters as of Sunday was pegged at 3.5 lakh. “We have stocked adequate food and medicines and rescue workers are busy helping people. Special teams of the Army and the National Disaster Relief Force are busy clearing the roads that are blocked with hundreds of trees that led to blockades. Out focus is on ensuring that loss of human lives is kept as minimal as possible,” he told The Hindu.
Asked about the number of marooned villages, Dr. Kumar said while they did not have details on that count, they were told about 50 to 60 villages being the worst-affected. “Those villages are our focus now and there are thousands of Govt. officials and rescue workers on the job, helping people reach cyclone shelters, give them food and medicine. We have hundreds of doctors who are examining victims, concentrating on the injured, specially those whose condition is critical, apart from administering first aid,” he explained.
Communication facilities were the worst hit, so was vehicular traffic as thousands of trees fell by the cyclone blocking the roads.
Teams of senior officials are going around in vehicles in the worst-affected areas, telling people over megaphones that the worst had passed and asked them not to panic. A steady trickle of people heading back to their homes in some less-affected areas has already started.