Reeling under the aftereffects of Cyclone Fani, the Odisha government faces the daunting task of restoring electricity to nearly 35 lakh households. In the districts of Puri, Khurda and Cuttack, the power infrastructure has suffered massively as over 15 lakh electric poles were uprooted and lines were damaged due to fallen trees.
The scale of the damage and the mammoth task awaiting authorities was shown by US space agency NASA, which released images comparing the lighting in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack before and after the cyclone hit.
The images show data visualisation of lighting on April 30, before Fani struck and on May 4 and 5, after the storm ravaged the cities. "These images were made from data acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite," the agency website stated.
Although the home ministry has said that power situation in eight of the nine cyclone-hit districts has improved, those on the ground told News18 that restoration work for the feeder system in several areas has not even started till now.
Even in state capital Bhubaneshwar, the earliest date for restoration of power supply, according to the Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha, is May 12. "Electricity will be restored in 70-80 per cent areas in Bhubaneswar by May 10 and restoration work will be completed in the state capital by May 12," information and public relations secretary of Odisha, Sanjay Singh said.
As mercury soars in daytime, it has become a herculean task for people to tolerate extreme hot and humid conditions.
Officials said that nearly 7,000 persons are engaged in electricity restoration work. They said that the 33 KV and 11KV feeders, meant to distribute electricity, are being charged in a phased manner.
It is for the first time in 43 years that a cyclone has struck Odisha in summers. Prior to this, Cyclone Phailin, Hudhud, Titli and even the Super Cyclone of 1999, which killed nearly 9000 people, had hit the state in winter. Deprived of electricity in the peak summer, people in some areas are getting impatient over the restoration delays.
For those working to restore power connection, the job gets tougher in the extreme summer heat as they struggle to charge the 33KV, 11KV lines in the humid conditions.
Expressing his appreciation for the workers, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a tweet, "Appreciate the tireless effort of workers and engineers to reconnect Cyclone Fani damaged 33KV feeder line to Mundali Water Supply System in very hostile environment to normalise water supply to most part of Bhubaneswar to pre-cyclone level".
To expedite the restoration work, nearly 3,000 skilled workers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana arrived in the state on Thursday. Extending help to the neighbouring state, Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu tweeted, "Fulfilling the role of a good neighbor, AP is providing all possible help to bring back normalcy in Odisha. A team of 2,055 workers, shift operators and staff from Energy Dept is deputed for rectification work so that services can be restored at a faster pace."
In the aftermath of the cyclone, authorities in Puri face an uphill task as the power infrastructure in the city has been completely pulverized. Apart from power, mobile connectivity and lack of internet access are adding to the woes of the people.
This is also hampering relief operations by the government, which has announced 50kg rice and Rs 2000 cash for the poor households. Due to lack of mobile connectivity, it has become difficult for the authorities to monitor the ground situation.
Water situation has improved considerably in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri, where water supplies have been restored to pre-cyclone levels.
Another issue faced by the residents in cyclone-hit towns and rural areas is that of serious cash crunch as banking services remain paralysed and ATMs have become dysfunctional.
Students appearing in various examinations are also affected as results get delayed. Those who appeared for the Class XII examination conducted by the state's Council for Higher Secondary Education are keeping their fingers crossed as they await their results.
According to the latest data, death toll due to Cyclone Fani stands at 41. The United Nations has commended the efforts of the Odisha Government in shifting 1.2 million people before Cyclone Fani unleashed its fury.