Cyclone Fani in Odisha (Photo Source: PTI)
The death toll in Cyclone Fani rose to 34 on Sunday, two days after the "extremely severe" storm barrelled through coastal Odisha, causing widespread destruction and leaving hundreds grappling with water shortage and power cuts. The deadly cyclone also caused minor damages to the 12th century Shree Jagannath temple in Puri while shattering a number of houses in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills and South Khasi Hills in Shillong. Though the official figure has been mounted to 34 in Odisha so far, many more are feared dead in the coastal state and elsewhere, including Meghalaya, Assam and other northeastern states.
The number of people affected by the cyclone has also jumped to around 1.08 crore in 14,835 villages spread across at least 11 districts, the official said, adding that over 13.41 lakh people had been evacuated in a span of 24 hours ahead of the disaster.
In the wake of this grievous situation, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a relief package for those affected by the calamity and said all families in Puri and parts of Khurda will get 50 kg of rice, Rs 2,000 in cash and polythene sheets, if covered under the Food Security Act (FSA). For the rest of Khurda district -- categorised as "severely" affected -- the FSA families will get a month's quota of rice, Rs 1,000 in cash and polythene sheets, he added.
Those living in the "moderately-affected" districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur will be eligible for a month's quota of rice and Rs 500 in cash, Patnaik said. The chief minister also announced an assistance of Rs 95,100 for "fully-damaged" houses, Rs 52,000 for "partially-damaged" houses and Rs 3,200 for houses that had suffered minor damage.
Speaking to media in state capital Bhubaneswar, Patnaik claimed that water supply had been restored in 70 per cent areas of the worst-hit Puri town and 40 per cent of the places in state capital Bhubaneswar.
"I am hoping that water supply will be fully restored in Bhubaneswar shortly and at least in 90 per cent areas of Puri town by this evening," the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief, who is seeking a fifth term in office, said.
"The government has made arrangements to provide cooked food for free over the next 15 days. We will also take up tree plantation on a mission mode," he added.
The chief minister, however, could not give the details on the status of the ongoing work for power restoration in the affected areas.
"We have to be very careful to avoid accidental electrocution," he said, when asked if power supply will be restored in the capital city, which continued without electricity for the third day on Sunday.
Meanwhile, several states from across the country have also come forward to help the cyclone-battered state carry out restoration work and offered financial aid. While Andhra Pradesh government has announced an assistance of Rs 15 crore, Chhattisgarh also extended support by offering a financial help of Rs 11 crore to the state. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra offered ex-gratia of Rs 10 crore each whereas both Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand gave Rs 5 crore to Odisha.
As per the latest reports, most of the deaths were registered in the pilgrim town of Puri, where the storm made a landfall on Friday, flattening fragile houses, uprooting scores of trees, electric poles and mobile towers. The government had mounted a massive restoration work across 10,000 villages and 52 urban areas ravaged by the storm, affecting nearly one crore people.
The "extremely severe" cyclonic storm, one of the "rarest of rare", unleashed copious rain and windstorm that gusted up to 240 kmph on Friday, blowing away thatched houses and swamping towns and villages, before weakening and entering West Bengal.
Asserting that efforts were on to restore electricity in the affected areas, Energy Secretary Hemant Sharma said the power infrastructure was severely damaged in Puri, Khurda, Ganjam, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Balasore districts during the cyclone.
According to a state government official, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Odisha to review the situation. Modi spoke to Patnaik on Saturday and assured continuous support from the Centre for the rehabilitation work.
With the Northern Railway cancelling about 287 trains passing through the East Coast Railway zoneare, railway services are unlikely to begin before May 10. Trains which will remain cancelled on Monday are Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express, Bhuvneswer-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, Anand Vihar-Bhubneswer Express, Puri-Anand Vihar Terminal Nandan Kanan Express and Puri Patna Express.