Five days after the cyclone Fani hit Odisha, the state is back on its foot slowly with the help of many including the neighbouring states. The state government on Tuesday, May 7, sought the Centre's help in restoring power and telecom services in Puri and Khurda districts, which were the worst hit by Fani, due to a shortage of skilled manpower, an official said.
The state has to install as many as 1.56 lakh electric poles. According to an official, the toll in the cyclone, which hit the state on May 3, rose to 37 on Tuesday, with two more deaths reported in Cuttack district as the struggle to restore power, drinking water, and telecom infrastructure continued.
“While 21 people had perished in Puri district, Cuttack reported five deaths followed by four cases each from Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts. Kendrapara district reported three deaths,” Special relief commissioner (SRC) B P Sethi was reported as saying.
"We have sought the Centre's help in providing skilled manpower to assist Odisha in the restoration of electricity supply in the worst cyclone-hit districts of Puri and Khurda," Chief Secretary A P Padhi told reporters after meeting with Union Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha via video conference.
He said though the state government has been able to restore water supply in Puri and Bhubaneswar by using diesel generators, it has been an uphill task to provide electricity to people in view of massive destruction of power infrastructure.
Read More: Super Cyclone ‘Fani’ Reaches Odisha with Ferocious Winds of Speed 180 Kms Per Hour
Padhi said Odisha has requested the Centre to send 5,000 skilled manpower from neighbouring West Bengal, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh.
However, he said, "I am not certain when exactly all areas will be provided electricity supply. We have already started the process of providing power to the consumers in a phased manner. In view of the massive destruction, one cannot give a timeline.”
During a review meeting, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik admitted that the telecommunication network has completely collapsed in Puri and said the state has urged the Centre to make Mobile Tower on Wheels available in the district to facilitate relief and restoration works. He said lack of telecommunication has adversely affected relief and restoration works.
Relief distribution work was launched in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday and the same will start in parts of Khurda district from Wednesday, Patnaik said.
In absence of drinking water and electricity during the mid-May summer, life in the coastal districts remain derailed even four days after the calamity. The miseries of the people were compounded with high levels of humidity which soared above 90% in coastal districts.
"Everything is dependent on the power supply. If there is no electricity, the filling stations cannot operate even though they have enough stock of petrol and diesel," Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said.
Read More: Massive Evacuation in Odisha as Cyclone 'Fani' Rolls Menacingly
With an acute shortage of drinking water, lack of power supply and ATMs becoming defunct, many people, mostly students and elderly persons, have started leaving the state capital for their native places.
"There is a rush at the bus stand as people move to their villages," Odisha Private Bus Owners’ Association secretary Tusharkant Acharya said. He said that even though 400 buses are now plying in the state, more are required to meet the passenger demands after the cyclone. Bus service has started in 80% of routes as the national highways and state highways have been cleared of blockades.
Though train service from Bhubaneswar resumed on Sunday, East Coast Railways Tuesday announced the cancellation of seven trains including Haridwar-Puri Kalinga Express, Chennai-Santragachi Suvidha Express, Neelachal Express, Puri-Shalimar Express.
Meanwhile, the Centre on Tuesday extended the last date of registration for students of Odisha to enroll in the JEE (advanced) exam. The eligible students were to register their names online between May 3 and 9.
"I am happy to announce that students from Odisha appearing JEE (Advance) 2019 will get an extension of five days till May 14 for their registration. A decision to this effect was taken following the request of Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik," Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu extended a helping hand to cyclone-ravaged Odisha and tweeted, "A team of 2055 workers, shift operators and staff from energy department will be deputed for rectification work so that service can be restored at a faster pace."
Former prime minister HD Devegowda and Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy spoke to Patnaik on Tuesday and expressed their solidarity with the people of Odisha. Telangana has offered their helping hands for the restoration of electricity in the affected areas. On Wednesday, about 1,000 employees from various power utilities have left for Odisha.
Other South Indian states including Kerala and Tamil Nadu have also extended their support for the state. In a letter to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on May 4, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan expressed his solidarity with the people who are facing the after-effects of the cyclone.
“Government of Kerala and its people offer all assistance including sending of medical teams, providing fire and rescue services and electricity personnel if you deem any of them necessary,” the Kerala CM stated in his letter. The Kerala Government has also offered provisions, clothing, tarpaulin and other essentials as per the numbers given by Odisha government. “I have asked our State Relief Commissioner to be in constant touch with your state authorities to render any assistance that may be required,” added the Kerala CM. Later, the Kerala Cabinet decided to offer Rs 10 crore as immediate support to the state.
The Tamil Nadu and Andhra governments have offered Rs 10 crore and Rs 15 crore, respectively, as an immediate contribution for Odisha. “The Government of Tamil Nadu stands ready to render any other assistance as may be required by the Government of Odisha,” said Tamil Nadu chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.
Read More: Packing Furious Winds, Heavy Rains, Cyclone Fani Batters Odisha Coast