Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The fate of scores of people was changed after the devastating Super Cyclone hit Odisha on October 29, 1999. It was perhaps the most destructive natural calamity in India in the last century. Ersama block in Jagatsinghpur district was the worst hit. Around 2200 people from Japa panchayat including 560 from Dahibara village lost their lives as heavy wind, torrential rain, and tidal waves wreaked havoc across the coastal area. 

Several houses and roads were ravaged, changing the geographical look of many areas due to the severe natural calamity.

Even after 24 years of the Super Cyclone, the survivors still remember the painful memories of that fateful black Friday when the monster gale snatched away everything from them. 

Several villages in Astaranga still carry the imprints of the Super Cyclone. The half-tilted huge peepal tree in the area still tells the harrowing tale. 

The lives of Kalpana Behera from Madhupur village in Puri district and thousands of other people living in villages and towns near the coast of Odisha changed on October 29,1999. They lost their near and dear ones and were rendered homeless as the Super Cyclone ripped through the state causing widespread damage. 

Kalpana lost all her family members including her husband, son, and daughter. Even though 24 years have passed since the deadly disaster struck Orissa, the memories of severe tragedy still haunt Kalpana. Tears start rolling down her eyes whenever she recounts the horrifying scenes and nature’s fury on that ill-fated day.

“All my family members were swept away in the high tidal wave before my eyes. I was completely helpless,” recalled Kalpana.

Though over two decades have already passed, it seems as if time has stopped for the villagers of Udaykani. Their village was completely swept away by the tidal wave.

“How can I forget the scene of people being swept away in the tidal surge during the cyclone? The village was completely washed away. Many valuable lives were lost. All the cattle were killed. Some of us managed to survive. We spent many days in hunger and horror before being rescued,” said Hari Pradhan, a survivor.

During these 24 years, Odisha has witnessed a sea change. Several cyclone shelters have been constructed in the coastal districts to help people take shelter during cyclones which are often hitting the State every year due to its geographical location. However, most of these cyclone shelters have been reportedly damaged and are lying in dilapidated condition. They are of no use as people can no longer take shelter there during cyclones and floods.

“Most of the cyclone shelters have been damaged due to the negligence of the government. People can no longer take shelter in those centers during the natural calamities. We request the government to repair those buildings immediately to remain prepared and help people cope with the cyclones,” said Kalu Pradhan, a social worker.