Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, May 5: Massive restoration and relief work went on war-footing in Odisha on Saturday after the severe cyclonic storm 'Fani' left a trail of destruction, causing extensive damage to power and communication infrastructure, trees and standing crops that the governments both in the state and at the Centre said have begun assessing and the full extent of the damage would be known in the days to come.
"In the event of such a major calamity like this — where Odisha was hit by close to a super-cyclone — instead of being a tragedy of humongous proportion, we are in the process of restoring critical infrastructure. That is the transformation that Odisha has had," said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
He said "a record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours."
Cyclone 'Fani' was one of the rarest summer cyclones, the CM said in a statement, adding that it was the first one in 43 years to hit Odisha and one of the three to hit in the last 150 years. "Because of this rarity, tracking and prediction were challenging. Till 24 hours of landfall of the cyclone -- one was not sure about the trajectory it was going to take.
"However, we prepared ourselves to face all the possible eventualities. This led to one of the biggest human evacuations in history - a record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours. 3.2 lakh from Ganjam and 1.3 lakh people from Puri."
Trail of devastation
Fani' made a landfall in Puri with a wind speed of more than 200 kmph and gusting speed of 240 kmph.
"Lakhs of trees were uprooted, blocking roads, breaking homes and damaging public infrastructure. In Puri district and parts of Khurda, power infrastructure had been totally devastated and we have the challenge of having to set up the entire electrification afresh," Patnaik said. The districts of Cuttack, Bhadrak, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Nayagada have also been affected.
Officials reported widespread power outages, damaged water supplies and roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines that made transport around the affected area difficult. The National disaster response agency said authorities were working "on war footing" to restore power and communications, and clear roads of debris.
"Odisha informed that extensive damage to telecommunications and power infrastructure had been caused in Puri, Bhubaneswar and other areas. However, due to advance precautionary measures taken and large scale evacuation, the loss of human lives was minimal," an official statement said.
The Union Health Ministry has decided to postpone the NEET exam in Odisha scheduled for May 5 based on the advice of Odisha government. It is also moving teams of public health experts to assist the state government in preventing outbreak of any epidemic.
'Fani' crossed over India's West Bengal state and moved northeast toward Bangladesh on Saturday, weakening from a severe cyclonic storm to a cyclonic storm.