New Delhi: Even as the Odisha government is grappling with heavy flooding in several areas and the prospect of large-scale rehabilitation following Cyclone Phailin, the meteorological department has predicted heavy rainfall in several northern states as a fallout of the storm.

In Odisha’s Ganjam district, where Cyclone Phailin made its landfall on Saturday evening, at least 200,000 houses and over 200,000 hectares of agricultural land have been damaged, making it the state’s worst casualty of the storm. Also, about 40 power transmission towers were uprooted by the cyclone, leaving most of the district without electricity and putting the national grid at strain.

Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Keojhar and Bhadrak districts in the state are flooded, and power distribution systems and grids have been severely damaged in many places, especially in Ganjam, by the severest cyclone to hit the country in several years, state government officials said.

Overall, 13 districts in Odisha were affected by the storm.

The flood situation is grim in Balasore and Mayurbhanj, special relief commissioner of Odisha, P.K. Mohapatra, said over the phone from Bhubaneswar, the state capital. Three teams of National Disaster Response Force and teams of the Orissa Disaster Response Action Force have been dispatched to the most affected areas, he said.

Cyclone Phailin lashed India’s eastern coast at Gopalpur in Ganjam district with wind speeds of up to 220km per hour around 7.30pm on Saturday, bringing heavy rains across south coastal Odisha and Srikakulam district of north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Twenty-one people died and 11.9 million people have been affected by the cyclone and the ensuing floods in 128 blocks of the state, according to state administration.

Defence agencies have been pressed into action to airdrop food packets in flood-hit areas. In Balasore district, around 300,000 people are locked by floodwater.

Several areas in Odisha received very heavy rainfall of more than 150mm on Sunday. Balimundali village and Banki town received rainfall of over 350mm on Sunday. On Monday morning, the National Disaster Management Authority warned that Burhabalang river at the National Highway (NH) 5 Road Bridge in Balasore district of Odisha was flowing in “high flood situation".

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), a “high flood situation" warning was issued by the Cyclone Warning Centre for the Burhabalang at the NH-5 Road Bridge in Balasore district as it flowed 1.08m above its danger level on Monday.

“Very heavy rainfall can be expected in the plains of Bihar, over north Jharkhand, including Kosi and Gandak river catchments, in the next 24 hours," said L.S. Rathore, director general, IMD.

IMD in its latest bulletin added that sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim would also face very heavy rainfall for the next two days, including in the Teesta river catchment. West Bengal could face wind speeds of up to 74km per hour, in gusts, in the next 24 hours.

After heavy rainfall for the next two days, rainfall will start decreasing at many places over Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Gangetic West Bengal. IMD had issued a flood warning for Bihar on Sunday.

In Odisha, while operations at Bhubaneswar airport were resumed and the air traffic control was functioning at its optimum level, Indian Railways suffered an estimated loss of 12 crore due to the suspension of 165 train services to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh between Saturday and Sunday.

Air India Ltd said it has resumed its schedule, and all flights of private airlines are operating without changes.

“All operations are normal. We have operated three flights already. A fourth one is scheduled as per original schedule," an Air India spokesman said.

Some trains services have now been resumed. In addition to the Puri-Howrah section that was opened on Sunday, trains services on the Khundra road-Berhampur- Palasa-Srikakulam-Vishakhapatnam route were also restored, effectively restoring all train services from South India and Mumbai to Bhubaneswar.

While there is not much clarity on the damage to the rail infrastructure, a railway official, who did not want to be named, said: “We do not see significant damage to rail infrastructure."

The health department in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha maintained that rapid response teams were taking stock of the situation in real time. In the worst-affected districts, the primary health concern is to ensure access to potable water, said G.V.S. Murthy, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health in Hyderabad.

“The government has an extensive mechanism in place, ensuring access to clean water, food and shelter. There has been minimal loss of livestock in the three worst-affected districts in AP (Andhra Pradesh). Our first worry is outbreak of diarrhoea. We do not have a threat of epidemics as yet," said the public health specialist.

“The state government has set up a committee to look at emerging public health concerns. Once water starts receding in these areas, the stagnation could lead to vector borne disease in the next few weeks. It is too early to address that aspect now. The hospitals have not shown any spikes in cases of diarrhoea either, which means people have access to safe drinking water," he said.

Large parts of Odisha are without electricity, leading to a blackout in 3,229 villages across Ganjam, which is spread over 8,070.6 sq. km. While the national electricity grid withstood the torrential aftermath of the cyclone, India is trying to cope with a sharp drop in electricity demand and its impact on the grid. This sharp fall in demand has strained the national grid network. The load is still under 100,000 megawatts (MW) from peak demand of around 127,000MW, according to officials managing the country’s electricity grid.

“Ganjam has been worst affected. Around 40 transmission towers have been uprooted. It will take a while for the supply to be restored in these areas," said a senior Power System Operation Corp. Ltd (Posoco) official requesting anonymity.

Load management functions are overseen by state-owned Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL) and carried out by its subsidiary Posoco. Regional load despatch centres are responsible for maintaining grid discipline and supervising optimum scheduling and delivery of electricity in their regions, and function under Posoco.

“All necessary facilities will be restored in almost all districts by Monday night, but Ganjam will take few more days as it was severely battered. We are on top of the situation and are monitoring it at the highest level," said Odisha’s special relief commissioner Mohapatra.

"Substantial damage to the 33/11kV distribution network in the coastal districts is reported," the Union power ministry said in a statement.

While PGCIL’s networks are fine, the electricity demand in the eastern region including Odisha has dropped, with the state’s load being only 1,400MW. Odisha has an installed power generation capacity of 4,682.1MW including the state’s share in central and joint projects. The state had an electricity demand of 3,448MW in August during peak consumption hours—normally between 8am and 11am, and 6.30pm and 10pm.

“Yesterday, we had taken a link out as a precautionary measure, but it was restored in a short while. While Odisha’s load is down, the load in the grid is also short by around 9,000MW due to the rainfall across the eastern region that has reduced demand. The demand is less than 100,000MW. Orissa’s state distribution network has been impacted," said the official quoted above.

“Our systems are intact," said PGCIL chairman and managing director R.N. Nayak.

Officials are still closely monitoring the grid as the eastern grid that supplies electricity to Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal is inter-connected to the national grid. Of the five regional grids in the country—northern, southern, eastern, north-eastern and western—all except the southern one are interconnected.

“As required, load and generation were managed in a balanced manner so as to secure stable transmission frequency. Load was not much affected in AP (about 9,000MW against normal demand of 10,000MW). In Odisha, it was reduced to 22-25%, about 600MW (normal demand is 2,800MW)," the Union power ministry said.

“Interruptions in the Talcher-Kolar HVDC link at 3 locations around 23 hours/01.19 hours on 12.10.13/13.10.13, were restored in very short time of less than 30 minutes. Also, the southern connection was maintained through the alternate path of 1,000MW Gazuwaka HVDC back to back link. No AC PGCIL line tripped. However, up to seven lines of 400kV, 17 lines of 220kV and 19 lines of 132kV have been affected concerning the state grid. This affected the power supply in the state," the statement added.

Ragini Verma, Tarun Shukla & Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story.

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