Ramakanta Biswas

Kalpana Behera broke down in tears as she recalls the horror of 1999 Super Cyclone, one of the worst disaster in the history of Odisha which turned her life upside down forever.

The middle-aged woman from Madhupur village under Astarang block in Puri district saw her entire family including her children, husband and in-laws wiped out by the devastating tropical cyclone in the blink of an eye. The turbulent sea hit her coastal village and while vacating their house, five members of her family were killed. 

She is now leading a lonely life since the devastation with memories of her dear ones her only source of inspiration to keep ticking in this brutal life apart from a cow and a pet dog who are now her only family. 

“My father arranged a boat to move our family to safety. A few minutes after we got into the boat, it capsized and all on-board were washed away by floodwater. Water as high as tree surged our village due to terrific winds. None returned to the village thereafter,” said Kalpana. 

The Super Cyclone, also known as Paradip Cyclone, hit Odisha with wind speeds packing up to 250 kmph and more, the category of a F5 tornado on October 29, 1999. Sandhakud Basti near beach in Paradip was completely destroyed by the Super Cyclone. Huge tides pummeled the entire area and claimed lives of many residents. 

While some managed to save their lives from the destruction, some lost their near and dear ones. Bodies of victims dotted the roads in the sheer destruction. 

Various reports have claimed that the cyclone caused the deaths of about 10,000 people, and insurmountable damage in its path of destruction.

During the storm, though Akshay Behera of Sandhakud Basti escaped death, he could not save his wife and two sons in the devastation. 

“My wife and children were washed away in the water during the cyclone. I was also swept away and found myself near Pipili. Many people suffered huge losses due to the worst natural disaster. I lost 10 livestock, bike, bicycle and a fodder shop to the cyclone. A boy working in my shop also died after being swept away by the surging water,” Behera recalled with tears swelling in his sad eyes.

Even today, panic still grips the residents of Kankana village under Erasma block of Jagatsinghpur whenever they hear about cyclone. Manorama Giri and Sankar Paramanik, two locals of the village explain how the news of any tropical storm sends shiver down their spine after they witnessed the devastation of the Super Cyclone.   

“Whenever we remember about that day, we become impatient. My husband, three brother-in-laws and one son were washed away in the cyclone. I clanged to a tree and somehow managed to save my life,” said Manorama Giri of Kankana village.

“On October 29, 1999 morning huge flow of water surged into our village and many people from our village were swept away. I lost my maternal grandparents, younger brother, my wife, a son and a daughter to the cyclone,” rued Sankar Paramanik.