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12 killed, 4 missing after cave hideout crumbles in rockslide triggered by Cyclone Titli

A group of tribals had taken shelter from cyclone Titli in a cave. However, the force of the winds caused a rockslide, killing some of the people.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2018 10:27 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneshwar
Cyclone Titli,Odisha,Rockslide
Damaged houses at a village along the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border after cyclone Titli passed through. (Arabinda Mahapatra/HT Photo)

At least 12 tribals including three children in Gajapati district who had taken shelter in a cave near a hillock to escape the tail end of Cyclone Titli, were killed and four others are still missing after being swept away by a rockslide on Thursday.

Local officials said 22 tribals of Baraghara village of Gajapati’s Rayagada block had taken shelter in a cave near their village on the morning after gale force wind blew away the roofs of their huts.

But the hillock caved in due to incessant rain and the resultant rockslide swept away 16 of the villagers. Rayagada block chairman Dhaleswar Bhuyan said 12 bodies were recovered late Friday night while four are still missing. He said news of the tragedy came late because of the remoteness of the place.

Bhuyan said the other six villagers who survived had come back to inform the district administration about the tragedy.

“The villagers complained that neither the district collector nor the officials of local police station responded to their SOS calls,” he said. Agitated villagers said they would not cremate the bodies till the district administration gave adequate compensation.

Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said the district administration was trying to reach the remote village. “We were more focussed on the damages to coastal areas. This particular village is located far away from the coast and was not within the 20-km immediate impact zone of the cyclone,” Sethi said.

Although no deaths were immediately reported in Odisha due to Cyclone Titli, the resultant floods following incessant rainfall have so far claimed 21 lives in the State. In Gajapati, 15 people have been killed in separate incidents. Two deaths were reported from Nayagarh and one each from Kandhamal, Cuttack, Keonjhar and Angul districts.

Waves crash onto the coast in Odisha’s Gajapati district as high speed winds accompanied Cyclone Titli. ( Arabinda Mahapatra/HT Photo )

At least 9 districts of Odisha have received more than 100 mm of average rainfall in the wake of the cyclone. The districts include Kandhamal, Gajapati, Cuttack, Nayagarh, Khordha, Puri, Boudh, Dhenkanal, and Jagatsinghpur.

The opposition has criticised the government over the deaths in the aftermath of the cyclone, saying the administration was more interested in taking credit for “zero casualty” than providing real succour to the people impacted by the cyclone and flood.

“The deaths at Gajapati happened solely due to the callousness of the State. What is shocking is that the government did not have information for more than 24 hours after the tribals died,” said BJP leader Bhrigu Buxipatra.

“Government’s bizarre claim that they were only prepared for Titli not flood speaks volumes about its ignorance in tackling natural calamity,” said BJP spokesperson Pitambar Acharya while senior opposition leader Bijoy Mohapatra said the State government failed to tackle flood-situation despite the IMD forecast.

On Friday, chief secretary Aditya Padhi had conceded that though the State was prepared for the cyclone, it was surprised by the heavy rainfall in Kandhamal, Gajapati and Ganjam districts.

“It is very difficult to predict and nobody including IMD was able to say that the Cyclone Titli system will move towards Rayagada and we also didn’t expect there will be heavy rainfall in Kandhamal as per weather forecasts. It will not be justified to say there will be floods in which river. However, we are fully prepared to face the situation,” he said.

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 10:27 IST