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The Friday fury of Fani
Satapada, the cluster of seven villages of Krushnaprasad block in Puri district, is known for its idyllic location. Here Chilka, Asia's largest brackish water lagoon, pours into the Bay of Bengal. A 32-km-long, narrow outer channel connects the main lagoon to the Bay of Bengal. High tides near the mouth of the inlet drive salt water in through the channel during the dry months. With the onset of the monsoon, the rivers and rivulets emptying into the Chilka are in spate causing fresh water currents which gradually push the sea water out. The inlet mouth frequently changes position.

The residents of these villages, -- Maensha, Rameswarpur, Sipabanta, Arakhakuda and Sanapatna among others -- which form a part of the Brahmagiri Assembly constituency, live in perpetual fear of storms during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon periods. Recently, these villages came to limelight when an extremely severe cyclonic storm made a landfall here and devastated the area, causing untold misery to people. Houses were washed away; trees were uprooted and electric poles were either bent down or thrown away by the wind. 

On 2 May, the villagers of Satapada area watched the surging waves of the sea proceeding towards them threateningly, like the hood of a poisonous snake. It appeared as if Chilka and the sea have merged into one and advanced to habitations menacingly. Ranjit Dasburma, a resident of the locality, describes the horror he and others experienced in the night before landfall: "On the eve of landfall, it appeared as if a terrible snake was swimming the waters of the sea and the lake to swallow us all. Likewise, on the day Fani struck, we felt as if the snake was hissing and was coming to devour us. We were scared."

A few villagers were aware of the impending storm from newspapers and television channels. People were urged to evacuate their houses and to move to the safety of cyclone shelters. Unfortunately, no official was present there to motivate the people or to supervise their movement. People did it on their own accord. People of Malatipatpur on the outskirts of Puri also narrated a similar experience.

Fear was writ large on the faces of the hapless villagers even a week afterFani wreaked havoc here on May 3, 2019. Five days after Fani made its landfall, a Samadrusti team visited the landfall villages which bore the brunt of this calamity. The mud of the field located at a distance of a kilometre and a half from Rameswarapur village was noticed on the walls of a cyclone shelter.

 "The government has promised us to help build cyclone-resistant houses, but they have not fulfilled their promise. Leaders make all tall promises to pocket our votes, but they forget us once elections are over. Indira Awas Yojana and Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana are the schemes that run only on paper," complain AdikandaDhaliand Surendra Dhaliof Maensha village.  A number of people of Rebena and Rameswarpur agree.

The misery of people who moved to the Rameswarpur cyclone shelter knew no bounds. Nearly 1,700 ? 2, 000 people?men and women, the aged as well as children ? were squeezed in a limited space.  They had to spend the day there when the wind wreaked havoc, damaging the roof, the doors and windows. Rainwater entered the shelter. Radha Pradhan, an old woman, was injured. There was a crisis so far as health and sanitation was concerned. Chitrasen Sahu, Basanti Behera and Kailash Chandra Pradhan narrated the woeful tales of villagers who took shelter there.

As Fani struck Satapada, heavy rains pounded thearea. Three-metre high waves lashed the coast; water passed through the villages to enter Chilka. People who took asylumin cyclone shelters and school buildings watched nature's fury with awe and disbelief. There were only two cyclone shelters in the locality.  Even 5 days after the cyclone wreaked havoc, no officer could reach there.

The misery of people who moved to the Rameswarpur cyclone shelter knew no bounds. Nearly 1,700 ? 2, 000 people?men and women, the aged as well as children ? were squeezed in a limited space.  They had to spend the day there when the wind wreaked havoc, damaging the roof, the doors and windows. Rainwater entered the shelter. Radha Pradhan, an old woman, was injured. There was a crisis so far as health and sanitation was concerned. Chitrasen Sahu, Basanti Behera and Kailash Chandra Pradhan narrated the woeful tales of villagers who took shelter there.

Cyclone Fani left a disastrous impact on Odisha's life, livelihood, economy and environment. 14 million people living in about 16, 000 villages and 51 urban local bodies spread over 14 districts were hit by this pre-monsoon disaster, leaving at least 64 people dead. The government's much publicized zero casualty approach did not bear fruit this time. More than the government's effort, it is the preparedness on the part of the community that kept the death toll low.

Cyclone Fani has severely affected Odisha's green cover. Millions of trees have been uprooted and several more millions badly damaged. It will take years to replenish this huge loss. That is why all stakeholders ? government and non-governmental organisations ? must act and act fast.

Meera Ghosh, retired Senior Reader in Botany, says: "Regeneration and maintenance of forests is a major responsibility of the government. Forests can protect coastal villages from wind and rough weather. Hence, it is necessary to replenish such plants by way of undertaking massive plantation drive of cyclone-resistant plants. Planting Acacia, Fabaceae and other such types of weak plants won't serve any purpose. Large number of Casuarina trees and other such species,which can withstand wind and high tides,need to be planted in sea-facing areas. In the villages, planting different varieties of cyclone-resistant trees such as Neem, Karanja, Baula, Jamu, Korila, Chatian, Khaira, Arjun and Ashok will be of great help."

Out of the 313 cyclones which hit India in the last 120 years, 102 were severe. According to government statistics, every year during the period from 1980 to 2018, on an average 3.70 crore people became victims of this natural disaster, which broke their backbone. Due to cyclones, the country's GDP became less by 2% and the centre lost 12% revenue. If one studies, the occurrence of cyclones, one finds that receding monsoon produces extremely severe cyclones more frequently than pre-monsoon cyclones.

In the two deadliest cyclones which battered Odisha in the course of last half a century, first in 1971 and then in 1999, the least prepared community living along the coast got nasty surprises, when death toll mounted to 9, 658 and 9,843 respectively. There were hundreds of corpses and carcasses lying all around. Prior to that, in 1967, a very severe cyclonic storm crossed Odisha coast between Puri and Paradeep. One thing was common about these cyclones ? receding monsoon produced them all, mostly in the month of October. But Fani is a pre-monsoon hardship.

An old man who worked as an assistant in a shop narrated his plight: "The cyclone damaged everything. The owner left the place. Lord Jagannath alone knows how I survive. For two days, I had to manage with the water from a tube-well. We are habituated to this. We struggle and try to stand on our legs so that we can face Vayu, the next cyclone." 

As in the cases of recent cyclones--Phailin, Hudhud and Titli -- Odisha's response in this case was prompt. 1.4 million people living in vulnerable locations were evacuated and taken to 879 cyclone shelters constructed after the 1999 super cyclone. However, it was observed that people living in villages likely to be affected by the cyclone came out of their huts and willingly went to the cyclone shelters. Arrangements were made for supply of dry food and cooked food. 2, 000 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel and 1,000 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) personnel were pressed into service for rescue operations. Moreover, 44, 000 volunteers were deployed at vulnerable locations.

This summer cyclone has left people of Odisha in severe distress and has rendered millions, jobless. One of the most devastating storms in Odisha's history, Fani dealt the coast a catastrophic blow.

The Jagannathtemple in Puri suffered damage, the repairing cost was estimated to be Rs 5.1 crore. That reminds us of the 1971 cyclone, when the Patitapabanbana was swept away by the winds.

In spite of these tall claims, an atmosphere of pain and agony pervades the area. The report from the ground presents an altogether different picture. When the Samadrusti team reached Rameswarpur village a week after the dreaded cyclone visited the area, it noticed hungry villagers were waiting for foods. The scene of old and lean Nabaghan Jena and Bundia Jena running here and there for food with tearful eyes were a matter of shame for any civilized society.

Nature's fierceness can not exclusively be annihilating yet additionally widely inclusive. The outrageous violent wind Fani left behind a trail of annihilation of property, assets and occupation that might be revamped throughout the years. In any case, its effect on socio-social exercises was unexpected. What's more, the main setback on the special raised area was relational unions.

Sanatan Pradhan had recreated a kitchen having asbestos rooftop beside his home in the patio to plan feast for his child Satyabrata's marriage. With the tornado overwhelming the rooftop and harming the kitchen dividers, Pradhan, an inhabitant of Rebana-Nuagaon town, needed to defer the marriage which was to be solemnized on May 19.

The Pradhan family had just printed welcome cards and booked marriage gear - from cooks to tent house and band baja to vehicles. Presently they need to reschedule it, yet they dread that the occasion may not be as fantastic as they anticipated.

"The kitchen has gone. We need to remake once more. Absence of power is the fundamental worry as generators are requesting three to multiple times of the typical charge. There has been enormous shortage of vegetables and other nourishment things. Give things a chance to standardize, we will choose a new date," said Pradhan.

His little girls, who are remaining in Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh, needed to drop their tickets. The main comfort was that they had not directed the 'Gua mangalan' (a custom considered extremely favorable for a Hindu family). "It was to be performed on May 10. In any case, we couldn't do it because of the violent wind," said Sailabala, mother of Satyabrata, a bread shop broker.

Prafulla Pradhan of a similar town has additionally conceded his child Priyabrata's marriage, which was planned on May 18 as he has endured loss of property in the tornado. With trash all around and sob for asylum help still high pitched, the violent wind attacked individuals of Brahmagiri hinder in Puri would prefer not to tie the matrimonial bunches now.

As per a harsh gauge, at any rate 50 relational unions have been delayed in the regions the TNIE group visited. Ashok Nayak and Anil Samantaray of Mahisa town needed to defer relational unions as their homes have been totally annihilated. The most significant event in their life can hold up as they are caught up with revamping their homes. Mahisa and its neighboring Berhampur are two most exceedingly terrible hit towns situated on an island in Chilika lake.

"My marriage was booked for May 6. I had just acquired staple goods, vegetables and others things for the gala. In any case, the typhoon harmed everything. I endured lost around ' one lakh," said Anil. In any case, there are a few people who opposed the demolition in a signal of human flexibility to put life on track however at a substantial expense. "Since we were prepared for the relational unions of my twin children, we proceeded according to plan. I needed to spend more towards charges of generators and vehicles. Be that as it may, we had no other alternative," said Maheswar Paikaray.

Sanjay Singh, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Odisha said on the electricity status in Puri: "There has been a colossal loss to power infrastructure at 220 kv, 132 kv and below. Many of these are in areas difficult to reach. Nevertheless, restoration work is going on at war footing and the government's focus is to restore normalcy at the earliest."

Leaders of political parties are conspicuous by their absence.  "Now that the elections are over, they are nowhere to be seen in public. Things would have been different had Fani advanced the date by a couple of weeks or elections had been scheduled to a later date," remarked a villager.

Life in the fishing villages like Pentakota has completely been disrupted. Many are now jobless and are facing other economic setbacks, especially because the village and the town, both heavily dependent on the fishing industry and farming, have been upended because of the storm.

Laxmi Chodapalli, resident of Pentakota said: "Our village and jobs have been damaged. Till the electricity is restored, we can't go fishing as there is no ice to store our catch. It's tough times for us and I hope the government helps us more." But the government help was too little and too late.

Even the best of efforts will still take time to make the administration reach the last person in the line. Therefore, the misery will have to be borne. Community help and financial assistance from corporations will be of great help at this hour of crisis.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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