Bhubaneswar, October 13: Expressing relief over the minimal casualty due to cyclone Phailin, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday identified rehabilitation as the foremost challenge for his government.
“With your cooperation, we have successfully evacuated almost nine lakh people and minimised loss of human life during the cyclone,” Mr. Patnaik said.
With seven deaths in comparison to the loss of nearly 10,000 lives in the Super Cyclone in 1999, he said “I think, we have been successful in minimising the loss of precious lives.”
“I will see to it, how soon we can get people rehabilitated. I am sure, with your active support, this should also be possible smoothly. Thank you very much once again,” the Chief Minister said.
Asserting that Odisha undertook one of the largest evacuations in the country, Mr. Patnaik said, “The impact of the cyclone will of course die down with the passage of time. Normalcy will come back soon. Our primary responsibility was to protect the valuable lives of our citizens.”
He said people had been urged not to panic and cooperate with the state government’s efforts. “I thank all of you for honouring my request.”
A senior official said it was expected that national and state highways and roads connecting district headquarters would be cleared by evening, as also power and water supply in Bhubaneswar.
Ganjam, where the cyclone hit the land, was the worst hit district followed by Puri.
Other coastal districts Balasore, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Gajapati, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda, Keonjhar, Kandhmal and Nayagarh, were, however, less harmed, Odisha Revenue and Disaster Minister S.N. Patro said.
The government has asked the concerned district collectors to suggest to the people to return to their houses if the weather is conducive, he said.
As many as 8,73,646 people were evacuated to safe places before landfall by Phailin last night.
Though many people in less affected districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara have started returning to their houses, majority of them have lost their shelter.
Houses of about 2.34 lakh people have been damaged in Ganjam district, Mr. Patro said, adding the people whose houses were damaged will be provided with polythene for temporary arrangement.
Though the human casualty is seven so far, a large population has been hit by the calamity with their houses and crops damaged and cattle and domestic animals affected.
Special Relief Commissioner P.K. Mohapatra said besides destruction of houses, a large number of roads, bridges, electric sub-stations, poles, mobile towers and others have been damaged as Phailin pounded the coast at a ferocious 200 kmph speed.
He said road communication would be restored within a day and there is no need of air-dropping of food packets this time.
“We will take the food packets by road and distribute them among the affected people,” he said.
Power supply in major towns too would be restored soon, he said, adding as many as 39 urban local bodies have been affected in the calamity.
A special task force has been set up to restore power supply in Berhampur Municipal Corporation (BMC) area as damage reported from there is no less than that of Gopalpur, about 20 km away, he said.
“We have already started road cleaning activities in the cities. The roads blocked in Bhubaneswar by fallen trees will be cleared today,” said NDRF DIG, S.S. Gualeria.
A total 20 NDRF teams of have been engaged in the road clearing works, he added.