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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Towns in darkness, deserted villages: Fani’s destructive trail

Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the capital Bhubaneswar, and Cuttack and Bhadrak. Mobile towers were damaged and power supply was disconnected in many places. Eight people died in the state.

india Updated: May 03, 2019 23:55 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Puri
A man folds his hands in prayer as cyclone Fani hits the coast, in Puri, Odisha, on Friday.
A man folds his hands in prayer as cyclone Fani hits the coast, in Puri, Odisha, on Friday.(Arijit Sen/HT Photo)
         

As Cyclone Fani barreled through the coastal districts of Odisha on Friday, Dilip Kumar was a worried man, but not for himself.

Kumar, who works as a cook at a hotel in the state capital Bhubaneswar, was in the relative safety of the inland city but his family was 100 kilometres away on the coast. As Fani made landfall on Friday morning accompanied by gale-force winds that snapped telecommunications lines, Kumar’s concern for his family’s safety grew grave.

“I was able to speak to them once at 11am and they said the entire village is destroyed. Our home stood as a ruin. Last night, members of all 70 households were shifted to a club that has a rather strong structures. So, no human casualties took place. But I am very worried because no one in the village could be contacted over phone since then,”

Kumar’s ancestral village of Pipli was one of hundreds that were pummeled by the worst summer storm the state has seen in four decades. Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the capital Bhubaneswar, and Cuttack and Bhadrak. Mobile towers were damaged and power supply was disconnected in many places. Eight people died in the state — among them a teenage boy on whom a tree collapsed, a woman hit by flying debris from a concrete structure, and an elderly woman who suffered a heart attack at a relief shelter.

In Bhubaneswar, Fani uprooted thousands of trees, fell hundreds of lamp posts, destroyed innumerable shops and even damaged some houses. The storm blew away advertising flexes and hoarding. Window panes and glass walls of dozens of commercial establishments were shattered.

As evening fell with strong gusts of wind and spells of rainfall still continuing, darkness shrouded the streets because of fallen electric poles and torn wires. A huge crane being used for building a highrise fell on a neighbouring two-storied building, damaging it significantly. However, no one was injured in the incident. The devastation was greater in rural areas where many inhabitants huddled together in relief centres, their thatched roof houses blown apart by the wind with storm surges of up to 1.5 metres.

In bus driver Bijoy Barik’s mind, Fani was nothing less than a monster that kept him terrorised for over two hours. After being requisitioned by the district administration, Barik had parked his bus outside district collector’s office in Puri 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 flied all around. I was praying to God to keep me alive. I have never been so scared in my life,” said Barik.

At Puri circuit house, affitional 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 [that killed about 10,000 people], said Fani was the worst possible Cyclone that he has seen in the coastal city. “The entire town has been pulverized. There is not a single tree that stands erect today in Puri,” said Mohapatra.

In faraway Kolkata, streets bore a deserted look and rail services interrupted as people braced for the cyclone, which is expected to hit the state early on Saturday. Neighbouring Bangladesh ordered the evacuation of 2.1 million people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and chief minister Mamata Banerjee all postponed rallies.

With agency inputs

First Published: May 03, 2019 23:55 IST

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