In Puri, Cyclone Fani terrorizes residents, submerges temple town
At 9 am on Friday morning, when Cyclone Fani was pounding the pilgrim town of Puri at 200-220 km per hour after making landfall close to the town, retired police official AK Khan decided to check on his store room.
As the strong winds started pummeling his residence in Muslimpada area of the town, Khan was thinking of the 1999 Super Cyclone when he was posted in Cuttack. “I sensed this was way bigger than the 1999 Super Cyclone, but wanted to ensure the furniture kept in the store room were safe. Soon after I entered the room the asbestos roof flew away while the debris hit my right foot and left hand. I started bleeding while rain poured through the open roof. I thought I was going to die till I somehow ran to the safety of my house,” said Khan, who got himself bandaged at the Puri district headquarters hospital this afternoon.
While Khan was injured, Saroj Nayak who owns a small eatery next to the Puri sea beach luckily did not get physically harmed. But the small-time businessman lost provisions and property worth Rs 5 lakh. Nayak had anticipated the force of the wind, but he was not prepared for what Cyclone Fani had in store. “I had put sand bags over the asbestos roof of my shop, but the asbestos roof blew off within half an hour of the landfall of the cyclone. Over 20 kgs of rice and 8 sacks of flour were left soggy by the pounding rain,” said Nayak, who was further heartbroken when miscreants looted 12 ceiling fans and a CCTV camera soon after the cyclone passed.
In Hotel Kapoor Plaza across the road, manager Sushanta Mishra was checking on the doors and window latches when a gust of wind broke a window pane. All the 19 rooms in the hotel had been emptied the day before following instructions of the district administration. Soon after the window pane broke, the mighty winds and rain water gushed inside flooding the rooms. The TV sets in each room were sprayed with the seawater brought in by the winds.
Before Mishra could think of anything to save his hotel, a gust of wind came with a whistling sound that broke one of the mobile towers on the hotel roof. “I ran to the toilet along with my staff and locked ourselves in for more than two hours. I could hear two more mobile towers on the roof being twisted and turned. I went numb,” said Mishra, still trying to come to terms with what happened in the last four hours.
In bus driver Bijoy Barik’s mind Cyclone Fani was nothing less than a monster that kept him terrorized for over two hours. After being requisitioned by the district administration, Barik had parked his bus outside the district collector’s office around 8 am when the cyclone started pounding. “I could not get down from the vehicle despite all my efforts. The bus was shaking like a matchbox as I pressed myself against an iron railing. The glass panes broke and shards flew all around. I was praying to God to keep me alive. I have never been so scared in my life,” Barik said.
At Puri circuit house, additional chief secretary Suresh Mohapatra was trying hard to find a safe place to stand as glass shards were scattered all around. Mohapatra, who worked in Puri as district collector soon after the Super Cyclone struck in 1999, said Fani was the worst possible cyclone that he has seen in Puri. “The entire town has been pulverized. There is not a single tree that stands erect today in Puri,” said Mohapatra.