As cyclone Phailin hurtled towards the coastal districts of Odisha, hundreds of tourists visiting the temple town of Puri, most of them from West Bengal, cut short their visit to return home.
The cyclone that is intensifying to a “very severe storm” as per the Met department is expected to lash Odisha on the evening of Saturday. Puri is among the eight coastal districts declared vulnerable to the impending disaster.
Many tourists were seen leaving their hotels in a jiffy to catch Howrah-bound trains, which were overcrowded. “I had planned to spend the next five days here, but returning home as I do not want to take any chance,” said Asim Banerjee from Hoogly in West Bengal.
Thousands of tourists visit Puri’s Lord Jagannath temple and the beautiful sea beach every day with those from West Bengal forming a major chunk.
The 12,000-odd hotel rooms in the temple town cater mainly to Bengali pilgrims.
Hotel owners said they registered a sudden dip in occupancy. Besides, many tourists who had planned to come to Puri between Friday and Monday have also cancelled their advance bookings in hotel.
Puri Hotel Owner Association secretary Rajkishore Patra said: “Cancellation of 25% to 70% rooms in various hotels have been registered.”
Puri collector NK Nayak said the administration has also instructed the hotel owners to discourage tourists from coming to the town between Friday and Tuesday, considering the looming disaster. “There may be long-duration power cuts and shortage of water and food, if the cyclone hits the district. The tourists should not suffer for that,” he said.