Vol. XLIII No. 20 May 19, 2019

Cyclone Fani Wreaks Havoc in Odisha

Ali Kishor Patnaik

SUPER cyclone Fani formed in the Bay of Bengal stormed Odisha on May 3 as it hit the land near Puri town and damaged the 480 km long coast and the nearby areas of the state, from Ganjam to Balasore districts. The ravaging cyclone smashed Puri town, capital city Bhubaneswar, urban centres and villages, of 14 out of 30 districts of Odisha.

The wind gusting  at more than 200 km per hour devastated buildings, telephone and electrical erections at some places and blew off the thatched and asbestos roofs in towns and villages. Heavy cyclonic wind and simultaneous torrential rain have simply wiped out the kuccha houses in the villages and slums in the urban centres. Fani wreaked havoc in seven hours, between 8am and 3pm on the day.

As per the report released by the state government, about 1.48 crore people of the 14 districts have faced the wrath of Fani. About 16,000 villages and 51 urban bodies were affected and about 5.8 lakh houses have been damaged, 1.05 lakh electric poles and one crore trees have been uprooted or damaged. Between Puri and Konark road alone, by the side of Bay of Bengal, 55 lakh trees have been damaged.

The death toll declared by the government is 41. These figures are less than the real damage and it is learnt that about 70 people have died and 10 lakh houses have been partially or fully damaged. Thousands of acres of  cultivable land, cash crops like coconut, cashew nut and beetle have been damaged. Fishermen are the worst affected losing their boats and fishing nets. In the coastal areas of Puri and Khurdha districts and nearby villages of Chilika Lake, hundreds of fishing boats have been completely damaged, hitting severely on their livelihood.  

Evacuation of more than 11 lakh people in different districts and target for zero casualty  by Naveen Patnaik turned to be political hoax. The state government has failed miserably in post-cyclone relief and rehabilitation operations. In the cities of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack  and urban areas, the roads have been cleared by lifting the fallen trees. In the villages, however,  it is the villagers who voluntarily cleared the roads.

Even after a week of the cyclone, the government failed to provide rescue material like tarpaulin or drinking water. Humidity and soaring heat after the cyclone has made life even more miserable. As the government failed to provide cooked food, community kitchens were opened by the people in many areas after three days of the Cyclone.      

In the cities of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack, basic amenities like electricity, water supply, telephone and internet are yet to be restored. Banking and ATM counters have been closed since May 3. Shortage of cash to maintain the daily needs has reminded the people of the experience of demonetisation days. It may take more than a month to restore  power supply in Puri town and entire city of Bhubaneswar and many more days for restoration of power in the rural areas. The sluggish restoration efforts of the state and central government is condemned everywhere and people have come onto the road in protest spontaneously in all the affected areas. The smart city Bhubaneswar and temple city Puri have taken a desert look.

Ali Kishor Patnaik, secretary CPI(M) Odisha state committee, state secretariat members Janardan Pati, Jaganath Mishro and Suresh Panigrahi have visited many affected areas of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Khurdha districts from May 4. All the Party members from all the  districts have been called upon to jump into relief and restoration work in the affected areas. Relief collection is also going on in the non-affected districts of the state.

CPI(M) Odisha state committee has demanded the supply of tarpaulin, kerosene, candle, drinking water etc, immediately. They also asked the government to continue free kitchens for one month. As a long term measure, since Odisha is prone to cyclones, pucca houses should be provided to all the affected families, CPI(M) demanded.