Home Environment 9 lakh evacuated from path of Cyclone Phailin, death toll limited to 23

9 lakh evacuated from path of Cyclone Phailin, death toll limited to 23

9 lakh evacuated from path of Cyclone Phailin, death toll limited to 23

odissaaaGOPALPUR/CHATRAPUR: With meteorological warning systems working efficiently and swift reaction by the Odisha government and the Centre, the strongest cyclone to strike the country in the last 14 years began dissipating on Sunday, thwarted from its destructive potential by the mass evacuation of close to nine lakh people into cyclone shelters in a matter of hours and days.

Roaring at more than 200 kmph, winds ripped through homes and tore down trees. A cargo ship was feared sunk, but the death toll of 23 stood in stark contrast to nearly 10,000 killed in 1990 when the super cyclone had struck an almost unprepared eastern coastline.

“I think we’ve been successful in minimizing the loss of precious lives,” said a relieved chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar. “We’ve successfully evacuated nine lakh people. This is one of the largest evacuation operations to have taken place in the country,” he said, identifying rehabilitation of lakhs of homeless people as the most important challenge before his government.

Electricity was restored to the state capital, Bhubaneswar, and a senior state government official said in the afternoon that all highways and roads would be cleared by Sunday evening.

Preliminary estimates suggest the cyclone affected 80 lakh people in Odisha, the state that bore the brunt of its fury, hitting 14,500 villages and 39 civic bodies. Five lakh hectare of standing crop are reported damaged and properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees lost. In Ganjam district alone, around 2.4 lakh houses were partially or fully damaged, said Ganjam collector Krishan Kumar. He added that all major roads in the district were cleared while power supply was expected to take another 48 hours to get restored.

For the cyclone-hit people, however, the intervening sleepless night of Saturday and Sunday would remain etched in their minds forever.

“Thank god we’re safe,” cried Nirakar Behera on Sunday, looking at the debris he called home until the previous evening. The 50-year-old fisherman of the seaside village of Haripur at Gopalpur had shifted seven km away to a school building at Chatrapur along with his family members. “Our family and villagers have survived the biggest disaster of our lives. We can always rebuild our homes,” he added.

“Who can forget what happened? The storm surge was more than three metres tall. I sat at one place in my room, praying,” said Pitambar Moharana, a hotel staff on Gopalpur beach. “Not a soul was outdoors in that dark night,” he said. “Had we not succeeded in evacuating people in large numbers by using all tactics (including force), the casualty could have been very, very high,” said SP (Ganjam) Ashis Singh.

Holidays of civil servants remain cancelled and most of them are deployed with disaster response teams with heavy equipment as well as helicopters and boats being used for rescue and relief operations.

A farmer lamented, “Everything has disappeared into sea water. There’s no way a single crop will grow here now.

Agencies said 14 more bodies were found on Sunday, taking the death toll to 23. Two bodies each were found in Berhampur town, Purushottampur, Ganjam town and Rangelilunda areas of Ganjam district where the high-velocity cyclone left a trail of devastation after making landfall in Gopalpur.

Panama registered MV Bingo carrying 8,000 tonne of iron ore was sailing to China after it left the Sagar anchorage on October 11, Kolkata Port Trust chairman RPS Kahlon told PTI in Kolkata. However, the crew was spotted in a lifeboat by a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft off the coast of West Bengal.


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