Bhubaneswar: The death toll due to cyclone Fani rose to 64 with 21 fresh deaths confirmed on Sunday, nine days after the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm devastated coastal Odisha.
The death toll which stood at 43 till Saturday, rose after 18 more casualties reported from the worst-hit Puri and four more from Khurda district.
At 39, the maximum deaths were reported from Puri, followed by Khurda (9), Cuttack (6), Mayurbhanj (4), Kendrapara (3) and Jajpur (3), an official at the State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC) said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik directed the officials to start assessment of houses damaged in cyclone Fani which made landfall in Puri with wind speed of up to 240 kmph on May 3 and has left at least 241 people injured.
Patnaik also directed that the house damage assessment be completed within one week from May 15.
“I have lost my thatched house in the cyclone. No one from government has come to see my damaged house. I am waiting for the assessment since May 4. I do not know when they will assess the damage and give me assistance to construct my house,” said Shantilata Mishra, a widow at Biraramchandrapur village in Puri district.
Mishra is among the many poor people who have lost their houses and not sure when they will get assistance from the state government.
“How long we should wait for the assessment? If we start construction, they may not give us assistance,” Mishra said as she wondered where she would stay in the meantime.
The cyclone affected people are gradually losing hope as the house assessment order was given on the tenth day since the calamity hit their villages with the exercise beginning 12 days after the disaster.
However, the Naveen Patnaik regime took full credit for the “efficient” evacuation before the calamity.
Promising full assistance for house construction, Patnaik said: “I assure that all out efforts will be put so that not a single eligible person will be left out.”
Patnaik further said that all families whose houses are completely or substantially damaged due to extremely severe cyclone will be sanctioned pucca houses.
“In all the severely affected blocks, senior officers will be appointed to supervise the assessment process,” Patnaik said adding work order distribution to the beneficiaries will begin from June 1.
According to sources in the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), 15,26,877 houses have been damaged in the state in different calamities in last 12 years.
However, the damage caused by cyclone Fani was the most severe with as it left 5,08,467 houses damaged.
The state government has demanded Rs 7,000 crore from the Centre for construction of disaster resilient houses in cyclone prone areas of Odisha.
While people are already on the streets, unable to get power and water nine days after the disaster, the house rebuilding exercise has come as an additional problem for them.
A large number of affected people as well as opposition parties have also accused the state government of being inadequately prepared to deal with post-cyclone situation.
The delay in start of house assessment may cause a lot of hardship for the people, said Suresh Panigrahi, a CPI(M) leader.
Speaking in similar vein, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra accused the state government of having failed to handle the post-cyclone situation.
Also read: Fani Defanged: Odisha Shows the Way
Meanwhile, angry people continued to blocked roads at many places, including state capital Bhubaneswar, on Sunday, demanding that the authorities address their problems quickly.
At several places, demonstrators alleged that the restoration work was hampered by lack of management and coordination among various government agencies, thereby compounding the miseries of the cyclone-affected people.
The state government said it is trying to speed up efforts to restore electricity, water supply and telecom facilities even as large number of areas remained in the dark for the tenth day since May 3.
The state government claimed it has restored electricity and drinking water supply in Bhubaneswar and urban areas of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Cuttack districts, but people blocked roads in Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Khurda districts, besides the state capital.
As Bhubaneswar witnessed protests in Samantrapur, Nuagaon and Lingipur areas, traffic on Bhubaneswar-Puri highway was hit for some time, police said.
“We are forced to hit the road as the government has failed to provide basic necessities such as water and power despite having promised to restore power supply by Sunday, May 12,” said a woman who joined a road blockade at Nuagaon.
“There is a limit to our patience. We are made to spend sleepless nights. We have to purchase drinking water at exorbitant prices,” said another protester.
Aggrieved people also staged similar road blockades on Jagatsinghpur-Machagaon road and at some places in Cuttack and Khurda districts.
In the pilgrim town of Puri, worst hit by the cyclone, locals were moving out of the place temporarily.
In almost all electricity offices in coastal districts, police personnel have been deployed to tackle people attempting to attack officials, a state government official said.
Information and Public Relations Secretary Sanjay Singh maintained that electricity will be restored in all areas of Bhubaneswar by Sunday midnight.
He also claimed that drinking water has been made available in all parts of the state capital.