At least 10 massive 18-wheel vehicle carriers and trucks toppled over on national highway 5 like matchboxes gave a glimpse of cyclone Phailin’s fury, but coastal Odisha escaped Saturday night’s battering with minimal damage.
A series of mangled mobile phone towers, uprooted trees and a maze of fallen electric wires on either side of the road while approaching Berhampur, 180 km south off Bhubaneswar, did not raise hopes.
Berhampur, the headquarters of Ganjam district, took a battering after Phailin made landfall at Gopalpur on Sea, which is less than 20 km away, on Saturday.
Howling winds in excess of 200 kmph tore through the town.
“People cowered inside their homes and shelters, but were prepared. This saved the day,” tea stall owner Magata Sahu said on Sunday.
Having escaped a repeat of the 1999 super cyclone disaster, Berhampur residents are willing to give the credit for the state of preparedness to government authorities.
The state took care of what could be controlled to avoid a repeat of the super cyclone disaster in 1999 that claimed nearly 10,000 lives. In an unprecedented drive, more than 700,000 people in Ganjam, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts were shifted to shelters.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Ra pid Action Force (ODRAF), the police, NGOs and local politicians joined hands to minimise the impact.
“Relief and rescue teams had positioned themselves at Gopalpur port town and Berhampur well in advance. This morning, Berhampur was flooded and had a ghostly look. By noon, the floodwaters receded and rapid salvage operations brought back a semblance of normalcy,” said cloth merchant Shakeel Ahmed.
SS Guleria, NDRF deputy inspector general (east and northeast), said, “We were prepared with our drill. When the time came, we delivered.”
The state has had a close shave, but Phailin has not left without leaving a mark. Berhampur is reeling under a blackout. Authorities hope to restore power only after five days.
Capital Bhubaneswar is also reeling under power outage. Power supply was disrupted in these areas to prevent mishaps in the event of live wires falling on the ground.
By Sunday evening, the winds had receded and people were making their way back home from shelters, eager to make the most of the remaining three days of Durga Puja.