NEW DELHI: Two days after Cyclone Fani battered coastal Odisha, authorities on Sunday confirmed 34 deaths and decided to rebuild houses and infrastructure on a priority.
The state government late Sunday evening informed that of the 34 deaths 21 are from Puri, the temple district where the “extremely severe cyclone" made the landfall on Friday mowing down infrastructure, fragile residential houses, shops and farms. However, some vernacular media organizations have put the toll at 39, citing unconfirmed sources. The toll is likely to increase once all affected districts are assessed over the next 48 hours, though a mass evacuation operation has helped check fatalities.
The special relief commissioner's office said that Cyclone Fani affected overall 10.7 million people across 11 districts.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik called Fani the “rarest of rare" tropical storms to hit the Indian subcontinent. “Because of (its) rarity, the tracking and prediction was challenging. In fact, till 24 hours of landfall, one was not sure about the trajectory it was going to take because of the predictions of different agencies," Patnaik said.
Odisha has suffered the brunt of cyclones earlier. In 1999, a super cyclone hit the state, killing more than 10,000 people. In 2013, cyclone Phailin had killed 44 people in the state.
Patnaik on Sunday announced a relief package for affected families in the most ravaged districts that included 50 kg of rice, ₹2,000 cash and one-time double pension for senior citizens.
The chief minister, whose government has received accolades from various quarters, including the United Nations, for effecting a mammoth evacuation ahead of the tropical cyclone Sunday announced that the state will help rebuild damaged houses on a priority. He also offered financial aid of ₹95,000 to each of the families whose houses have been damaged completely.
The financial relief may go up after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the state on Monday to review the damage and destruction. Cabinet secretary P.K.Sinha on Sunday spoke to the chief secretaries of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal to assess the situation and promised continuous help. Sinha also asked all three states to give priority to rebuilding telecom, power, and other infrastructure.
Restoring of water and electricity connections are among the priorities, Patnaik said, and claimed that 70% of the water connection in Puri and 40% in Bhubaneswar have already been restored.
“I am hoping that water supply will be fully restored in Bhubaneswar shortly and at least in 90% areas of Puri town by this evening," said Patnaik, who is seeking a fifth term in office.
The chief minister, however, could not give a timeline about when the electricity will be fully restored in the state. The state energy department had announced on Saturday that over 3 million families are without electricity as the cyclone has ravaged the electric system severely, especially the 33kV and 11kV high-voltage lines.
“We have to be very careful to avoid accidental electrocution," he said, when asked if power supply will be restored in the capital city, which continued without electricity for the third day on Sunday.
Bhubaneswar resident Byomkesh Biswal said the destruction is immense and people are not expecting normal power supply for the next couple of days. Several parts of coastal districts including Cuttack, Khordha, Balasore, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, and Bhadrak are still without power supply.