Cyclone Fani wreaks havoc in Odisha: 8 die, power and telecom infra damaged

CM Naveen Patnaik met senior officials in various departments and directed them to undertake immediate relief and restoration work in affected areas on a war footing

cyclone Fani, cyclone, Visakhapatnam
Clouds loom ahead of cyclone Fani in Visakhapatnam. Photo: Reuters

After killing eight people in Odisha, cyclone Fani will make a landfall in West Bengal early on Saturday. 

Fani, rolled through Odisha packing rain and windstorm that gusted up to 205 kmph after making a landfall around 8 am in Puri. The storm severely damaged property and public infrastructure in 13 coast districts of the state. Casualties were reported from Puri (3), Bhubaneswar (3), Kendrapara (1) and Nayagarh (1).

The cyclone was almost reminiscent of super cyclone of 1999, one of the worst calamities in the state’s history, which claimed over 10,000 lives. Casualty was much less this time compared to 1999 as 1.08 million people were taken to safer places before the cyclone struck. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik directed authorities to undertake immediate relief and restoration work.

Summer crops, orchards and plantations have been devastated in large scale, said government sources. Also, mobile towers at many places were blown away, disrupting telecommunication services. “All telecom services are down in Puri district,” said Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi.

Bhubaneswar plunged into darkness as evening fell. The effect has been catastrophic on the low tension lines that feed the domestic power consumers, an official said.

"More than 100,000 electric poles have been ravaged in Puri and Khurda districts. Restoration of power will take longer than we anticipated. In Bhubaneswar and Puri, the transmission infrastructure needs to be relaid. No assessment of monetary damage has been made yet,” said Hemant Sharma, secretary (energy), Odisha government. 

The East Coast Railways cancelled 56 more trains. Earlier, the regional railways had announced cancellation of 169 trains and diverted several others. All flight operations to and from Biju Patnaik International Airport has been stopped till tomorrow.

West Bengal braces for fury

As Fani, which means head of a snake and pronounced foni, pummelled Odisha, neighbouring West Bengal braced itself for the fury. 
Even as seven constituencies from the state runs into the fifth phase of elections on May 6, the state’s Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee chose to monitor the situation from Kharagpur in the West Midnapore district, a strategic location for monitoring rescue operations. She was on her way to a political rally in that district before deciding to cancel it and stayed back at Kharagpur.

“Have cancelled my rallies for the next 48 hours because of what could be an impending disaster #CyclonicStormFANI. We are monitoring the situation 24x7 and doing all it takes. I appeal to all people to cooperate. Be alert, take care and stay safe for the next two days,” she tweeted.

The Bharatiya Janta Party also called off its rallies. While Prime Minister Nardendra Modi’s rallies in Tamluk and Jhargram have been postponed by a day. Yogi Adityanath's rally in Jamshedpur, scheduled on Friday, was cancelled. The party’s president also cancelled three rallies in nearby Jharkhand on the same day due to worsening weather conditions.

East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata, and the Sundarbans are likely to feel the initial impact of Fani.

While the East Coast Railway cancelled 157 trains in anticipation of the impending cyclone, Eastern Railway cancelled over 41 local trains besides the Sealdah-Puri Duronto Express. The railways has also put in place a quick-response team to address any exigencies arising out of the cyclone. Flight operations to and from the state were also disrupted as Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport closed down from 3 pm on May 3 till 8 am on May 4. 

In a series of tweets, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said all airlines must immediately respond to the concerns of passengers affected by Cyclone Fani.

As Kolkata and several parts of coastal Bengal continued to witness drizzles throughout the day, private offices shortened the working hours while schools remained closed. Colleges have rescheduled ongoing examinations.