Restoration work picks up in cyclone-hit Odisha

Relief and restoration work in cyclone-ravaged coastal Odisha has gained pace, and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Friday said government offices in the five severely affected districts will remain open during the weekend.

The state government has been able to ensure supply of drinking water in

most parts of the 14 districts, including Puri and Khurda, affected in cyclone 'Fani', officials said.

However, power supply is still to be restored as 1.56 lakh electric poles were either uprooted or severely damaged in the cyclone. Of them, 30,000 electric poles were damaged in Bhubaneswar.

While about 50 per cent of Bhubaneswar residents have been provided power connection, entire Puri district continues to remain in darkness.

The state government claimed that it would be able to fully restore power in Bhubaneswar by May 12 while a part of Puri town may get electricity by the same time.

Lack of electricity is adding to the misery of the people who have to bear the mid-summer heat.

"We have engaged skilled manpower both in Puri and Khurda districts for speedy restoration of power. However, the process is taking time due to the massive devastation caused to the power infrastructure," said Odisha Energy Secretary Hemant Sharma.

Exactly a week ago, the 'extremely severe' cyclone Fani made its landfall near Puri affecting more than 1.5 crore people in 14 districts and destroying all power infrastructure and telecommunication.

A situation report released Friday by the special relief commissioner's office said at least 41 people were killed in the calamity and 5.08 lakh houses were damaged.

Casualty to over 34.56 lakh livestock casualty has also been reported from the 14 cyclone-ravaged districts.

An order issued by the chief minister's office said all government offices in cyclone-hit districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara will remain open on Saturday and Sunday despite being holidays.

"The aim is to augment the ongoing relief and restoration work," it said.

An inter-ministerial team is being sent by the Centre to assess the situation in view of the huge damage caused by the mid-summer cyclone that struck with a wind speed of 200 kmph and battered the state's coastal region.

The team is mandated to submit a field report to the Home Ministry, the officials said.

The central team will be led by the additional secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Vivek Bharadwaj. It will arrive in Bhubaneswar on the evening of May 12 and hold a meeting with senior officials, said Special Relief Commissioner B P Sethi.

The central team will pay a three-day visit to the cyclone-hit districts from May 13 for an on-the-spot assessment of the damage.

Before returning to Delhi, the team will hold a meeting with state government officials on May 15, the officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an aerial survey of Puri and Khurda districts on May 6 and the Centre had thereafter released Rs 1,000 crore as interim assistance to carry out relief and rescue operation.

Meanwhile, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who took stock of the situation, said of the 234 filling stations in Puri, Khurda and Cuttack districts, 232 have become operational and two others will start working from Saturday.

He said the department has made provision for two mobile tankers to distribute petrol and diesel to consumers in Puri town.

"We have been able to bring 100 per cent normalcy in the supply of diesel and petrol within a weeks time," Pradhan said, adding that there is enough stock of kerosene, petrol and diesel in the cyclone-hit areas.

An East Coast Railways (ECoR) official said services of Memu trains between Puri-Talcher and Puri-Angul resumed on Friday.

Only four trains from Puri remain cancelled and the others are now running as per the schedule.

"There will be total normalcy in train services from May 12," he added.