Cyclone Fani: Toll rises to 37, Odisha seeks Centre’s help to restore power, telecom services

Bhubaneswar |The Odisha government on Tuesday sought the Centre’s help in restoration power and telecom services in Puri and Khurda districts, worst hit by cyclone ‘Fani’, due to 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 Friday, rose to 37 on Tuesday with two more death 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 said.

“We have sought the Centre’s help in providing skilled manpower to assist Odisha in 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.

Padhi said Odisha has requested the Centre to send 5,000 skilled manpower from neighbouring West Bengal, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

These people will be deployed in erecting electric poles and draw wire on them which would facilitate the state to restore power supply in a time-bound manner, he said.

However, the Odisha chief secretary did not give any timeline for restoration of electricity service.

“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,” Padhi said.

During a review meeting, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik admitted that 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 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 remained derailed even four days after the calamity.

The miseries of the people were compounded with high levels of humidity which soared above 90 per cent in coastal districts.

“Everything is dependent on 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.

With 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 rush at the bus stand as people move to their villages,” Odisha Private Bus Owners Association secretary Tusharkant Acharya said.

He said 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 per cent 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 cancellation of seven trains including Haridwar-Puri Kalinga Express, Chennai-Santragachi Suvidha Express, Neelachal Express, Puri-Shalimar Express.

Meanwhile, the Centre Tuesday extended the last date of registration for students of Odisha to enroll in the JEE (advanced) exam. The eligible students were to resister 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 5 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.”

He also announced an assistance of Rs 15 crore for the cyclone victims of Odisha.

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.

Financial assistance poured in from many quarters with industrialist Gautam Adani contributing Rs 25 crore and ICICI Bank Rs 10 crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys (IMFA) also contributed Rs 75 lakh for the cyclone victims.

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