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Cyclone Fani survivors protest delay in relief, demand restoration of power

Around 1.5 lakh kilometres of power lines were wrenched away by 250 kmph-strong winds on the morning of May 3. The gales caused extensive damage to the power infrastructure in Puri, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Jajpur districts.

india Updated: May 11, 2019 21:33 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Puri/Bhubaneswar
Cyclone Fani,Odisha,Bhubaneswar
A central team led by the union power secretary is scheduled to visit Odisha on Monday to assess the damage caused to the power infrastructure in the state. Another team of the Ministry of Home Affairs will also visit the state next week.(BLOOMBERG PHOTO)

A week after Cyclone Fani ripped through coastal Odisha affecting 1.5 crore people, more than a million people in Puri and Bhubaneswar continued to languish in the sweltering summer heat, waiting for power supply to be restored, even as the state government struggles in the aftermath of one of the worst cyclones in the history of the coastal state.

Around 1.5 lakh kilometres of power lines were wrenched away by 250 kmph-strong winds on the morning of May 3. The gales caused extensive damage to the power infrastructure in Puri, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Jajpur districts and snapped 5030 km of 33 KV lines, 38613 km of 11 KV lines and 79485 km of LT lines.

Besides, 5 towers of 400 KV capacity, 27 towers of 220 KV capacity, 21 towers of 130 KV capacity and 64304 distribution transformers have been damaged in the cyclone as have four grids of 220 KV capacity that distribute power in and around Bhubaneswar and 4 grids of 132 KV capacity in Puri, Nimapada, Mancheswar and Ransinghpur.

The state government has mounted massive restoration efforts, but the challenge is proving to be herculean. “The damage to power infrastructure has been so great that even under normal circumstances, it would have taken months to restore power. But we are working on a war footing with 7000 power technicians from neighbouring states,” state energy secretary Hemant Sharma said.

A central team led by the union power secretary is scheduled to visit Odisha on Monday to assess the damage caused to the power infrastructure in the state. Another team of the Ministry of Home Affairs will also visit the state next week.

People of the state resorted to disruptions in several cyclone-affected districts. In Chopada gram panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district, hundreds of people blocked the Cuttack-Paradip road in the morning, demanding resumption of power supply.

In Bhubaneswar, locals staged a road blockade near the Lingaraj Temple square to demand the same. In the Samantarapur area of the city, local people blocked traffic on the NH-16 while in Nayapalli, angry locals created a ruckus at the Central Electricity Supply Utility of Orissa (CESU) office, to demand the restoration of electricity in the area.

“How long can we wait? The IAS officers and the ministers are enjoying their AC rooms while we are getting roasted in the summer. Why did the government promise that power supply would resume in more than 80 per cent of Bhubaneswar?” asked an angry Narahari Panda in Bhubaneswar.

In Bhubaneswar, the CESU has so far been able to provide power to just about 40 per cent of its 4.5 lakh consumers, though the government on its Twitter handle claimed that over 60 per cent has been covered.

“Why is the government lying about power supply resumption? In Jaydev Vihar, there is no power as yet, but the government claims the opposite. I spent the last three days in a hotel. Can the government give an exact date by when people will get electricity?” demanded Samarjit Mohanty, an interior decorator consultant of Bhubaneswar.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 50 units of which are doing a commendable job in Odisha since Cyclone Fani made landfall, has deployed almost all its forces to help in restoring power. Its director general Satya Narayan Pradhan said that 15 gas cutters and 5 high-end plasma cutters have been ordered from Kolkata to cut iron and concrete structures. “We expect normalcy to be restored in Bhubaneswar by May 15, while in Puri, it may take around 10 days for restoration work to be executed completely,” Pradhan said.

People also expressed their anger over irregularities in the distribution of relief material by blocking the Bhubaneswar-Puri road near Satasankha in Pipili.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader KV Singhdeo on Saturday met Special Relief Commissioner, Bishnupada Sethi. Singhdeo alleged that relief material and cooked/dry food are not being given to people in the Satyabadi area of Puri district. He also alleged that only people with ration cards were receiving aid. In Pritipur village, under the Binjharpur tehsil of Jajpur district, people allegedly abused a lady Revenue Inspector (RI) and thrashed a peon, while the RI was assessing the damage caused by Cyclone Fani. The villagers were reportedly angry over alleged irregularities in the distribution of relief material.

Meanwhile, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik on Saturday launched a Rebuild Odisha portal (http://rebuild.odisha.gov.in ), where people can donate funds for restoration and rehabilitation of the state’s cyclone-affected areas. The portal has photos of damaged school buildings with an estimate of the cost of rebuilding the same.

Officials said the cyclone has also destroyed 1.4 million trees worth Rs 537 crore. Of these, 9 lakh trees in forests like the Puri-Balukhand wildlife sanctuary on the Puri-Konark marine drive bore the brunt of the cyclone.

However, the famous Nandankanan Zoo that suffered major damage will reopen for visitors from May 21.

The state government said that banking services in the Cyclone Fani-hit districts will be normalized by May 13. At least 15 mobile ATM counters in Puri and 10 in Bhubaneswar will be started from Monday.

Banks have been asked to replicate the Kerala flood- model with some modifications for providing loans with minimum documentation.

The Railways, which had cancelled around 600 daily trains before Cyclone Fani’s landfall, has so far restored over 150 connections. Railway officials said that normal train services from Puri would be resumed by May 12 though the complete restoration of Puri’s damaged railway station may take upto 3 months.

The world famous Sun Temple in Konark will be thrown open to visitors by Tuesday, as it has not suffered any structural damage. Archaeological Survey of India director-general, Usha Sharma, who is now in Odisha said all necessary repair work of the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri will be undertaken on a war-footing and completed before the Rath Yatra scheduled in July.

“The Konark temple scaffolding, which was erected to facilitate the cleaning of the temple’s upper levels by chemicals, is being repaired,” Sharma said.

First Published: May 11, 2019 21:28 IST