Cyclone Fani: Death toll mounts to 43 in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: The death toll in Odisha due to cyclone Fani mounted to 43 on Saturday, even as people staged a road blockade and assaulted a state official in protest against water shortage and power cuts in the coastal belt ravaged by the severe storm a week ago.

According to an official, two fresh deaths have been reported in Cuttack and Khurda districts of the state.

While the state government claimed to have restored power and drinking water supplies in urban pockets of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack districts, people Saturday blocked roads connecting Paradip and Cuttack, and the national highway linking Bhubaneswar with Puri, alleging lack of basic amenities.

Similar agitations were seen in parts of the state capital where power continued to remain elusive for the eighth consecutive day.

In the pilgrim town of Puri, worst hit in the storm, locals were leaving homes and shifting elsewhere temporarily, even as the state government claimed that it was undertaking relief work on war footing.

“We left Puri and moved to Koraput (500 km away) as there is no certainty on restoration of power and water supply. Bhubaneswar, too, has been severely hit by power and drinking water crisis.

“Add to that, hotel and guest house owners are charging more than the usual rate in view of the rush,” Rathindra Mishra, a native of Mausima Lane in Puri, said.

A report from Jajpur district said angry people in Binjharpur tehsil area beat up a revenue department official for not getting relief as announced by the state government.

Jajpur District Collector R K Das said “stringent action” will be taken against those found guilty of assaulting the official.

In almost all electricity offices in the coastal districts, police personnel have been deployed to tackle people attempting to attack officials, according to senior officer in the state government.

The “extremely-severe” cyclone, one of the “rarest of rare”, unleashed copious rain and windstorms that gusted up to 240 kmph on May 3, blowing away thatched houses and swamping towns and villages in Odisha.

NDRF director general S N Pradhan, who met Chief Secretary A P Padhi and the special relief commissioner, said the specialised force would assist the government till power is restored in the state.

“The NDRF has deployed personnel in 50 different teams. They are equipped with sophisticated machines like power cutter, plasma cutter and gas cutters. Our personnel are assisting the state government in restoring power,” he added.