People resorted to massive hoarding and panic buying in Odisha in their aim to prepare for Cyclone Phailin which will make landfall on Saturday evening. The government had earlier issued a red alert and warned of severe damage from the cyclone.
“In 1999, we starved for days. This time I want to stock food for at least seven days,” said Nirakar Dasmohapatra of Ganjam district, among the most vulnerable.
Supply department officials seized several bags of potatoes in Nayagarh district while 300 bags of wheat were seized from a place in Ganjam district.
Dry food, candles, match boxes and soaps went off the shelf in coastal districts of Odisha as well as state capital Bhubaneswar. So did potatoes, tomatoes and onion, even as chief minister Naveen Patnaik warned of “strict action against hoarders”.
But traders made a killing selling vegetables at exorbitant prices and hoarding essential items. Potato prices shot up to Rs 50 per kg and chuda (crushed rice) cost doubled to Rs 60.
Even big malls in Bhubaneswar hiked food stuff prices. “We are ready to pay more, but there is nothing left in the market,” said Sanjay Dash in Bhubaneswar.
Turning to the Gods
Puri residents are sure their town would be spared the fury of Cyclone Phailin when it is feared to make a landfall on Saturday.
Their belief in divine intervention stems from the 1999 super cyclone that spared the temple town while ravaging its adjoining areas.
Other areas in coastal Odisha, however, have no such hope even as they continuously pray to Durga, the presiding deity of the ongoing Navratra festival.
Even while doing so, they continue to shop and stock essentials.
Cuttack's nightmare: Durga Puja takes a hit
A grand preparation for a six-day merrymaking turned into panic buying to store essentials for at least seven days in view of the imminent deluge that is going to hit Odisha coast in the form of severe cyclone called 'Phailin' in next 24 hours.
A few days ago, people of Cuttack were making purchases for dresses and other luxury items for the Durga Puja celebrations.
But the warning from weathermen that the cyclonic storm would be at the threshold of very severe cyclone, the memories of 1999 super cyclone returned to haunt them with their festive mood giving way to fright and downcast.
The Durga puja, tipped to be the biggest annual extravaganza of Cuttack, has been badly affected as people, instead of going pandal-hopping, have decided to remain indoors as incessant rains began to lash the city in the evening with frequent power cuts.
Sensing as to what is in store for them for next four to five days, the entire city is now witnessing lull before the storm.
Known for its unique brotherhood, people of both Hindu and Muslim communities have joined together in offering prayers in Temples and Masjids to protect the people of the state from the fearsome storm.
The Puja organisers at various mandaps hoping that Goddess Durga, invoked at their mandaps two days ago, would come to their rescue in the hours of crisis.
"We are sure the Maa (Goddess Durga) would come to our rescue and the people of the State meet any eventuality by the grace of almighty", said the city peace committee secretary Bhikari Das.
A Muslim devotee, after the mass prayers in a Masjid, said he has fervently appealed to Allah to protect the people of Cuttack city from the imminent cyclone.
Meanwhile, the massive police arrangements made in the city for the Durga puja have been instructed to help the people of the city during the storm and help the district administration in rescue and relief operations after the cyclone.
The puja committee members have also been instructed to ensure that the welcome arches and decorations they have made at their mandaps do not block the roads after they are ravaged in the cyclone.
In Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, Bhimunipatnam, a fishing village was not so worried. “We know a storm is coming. Ganga amma tells us everything and she is turbulent,” said 60-year-old Vasapalli Mogganna.
But aren’t they scared?
“We are used to these things. And mother Ganga has never hurt us,” said Sriramulu while mending his fishing net.
Scores of children played on the beach and some more were seen bobbing up and down the rising waves with nary a scare.
(With PTI inputs)