Cyclone Fani has virtually run the pilgrim town of Puri in Odisha into the ground.
The State control room in Bhubanewswar is yet to establish contact with many affected districts. The Biju Patnaik airport in the capital city bore the brunt of the cyclone and there was no word on commencement of commercial flight operations.
Puri has suffered colossal damage, with power lines, trees, boundary walls falling flat everywhere. People were not able to get information about their loved ones due to the failure of communication networks. Four-wheelers could get up to the town but could not proceed inside.
Since nearly 25,000 tourists were asked to leave the town a day before Fani hit the coast, the administration heaved a sigh of relief.
The fishing community has been hit badly. Boats were seen overturned on houses. The administration, which had prepositioned ready-to-eat food, had provided food to the people affected by Fani.
It was a similar situation in Bhubaneswar, where lakhs of people residing in slums have been rendered homeless. Roofs of thatched houses had been blown away by the storm.
The return of heat and humidity has made matters worse. Apart from the inconvenience caused to people in the absence of power, personnel belonging to disaster response forces are having a tough time carrying out restoration work.
There is no official information about the death toll, though an official estimate put the figure at over 20.
Prediction, tracking was challenging, says CM Patnaik
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the situation on Saturday while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to take stock of the situation on Sunday.
“Now we have received information about extensive damage to dwelling units, power lines and road infrastructure. The telephone lines are down,” said Bishnupada Sethi, Special Relief Commissioner of Odisha.
“We are, however, relieved that the cyclone has left Odisha. We are compiling information but we don't have exact information about deaths. More than 1.2 million people have been evacuated, more than 30 lakh people have been badly hit and that number is likely to go up.”
Terming the cyclone a tragedy of humongous nature, Mr. Patnaik said, “Fani is one of the rarest of rare cyclones – the first to hit in 43 years and one of three to hit in 150 years. Because of the rarity, the prediction and tracking of the cyclone was challenging. In 24 hours, one was not sure of the trajectory it was going to take.
“Fani had a landfall at Puri with windspeeds of over 200 kmph and gusting up to 240 kmph. It tore apart the infrastructure, especially power, telecom and water supply.”
Districts such as Puri, Khurdha, Cuttack and Nayagarh have been affected the most.