Bhubaneswar: The severe cyclonic storm Yaas that struck Odisha coast near Dhamra in Bhadrak district, about 400 kms from here on Wednesday morning, has left behind a trail of destruction.
It has caused widespread damage to thatched houses, standing crops and trees in the rural belt of Bhadrak, Balasore, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts.
There were reports of two deaths — one from Keonjhar and another from Balasore — both caused by the falling of trees but these are yet to be confirmed by the administration. Special relief commissioner P.K. Jena said that district collectors have been asked to submit reports. However, damage to property has been reported from many coastal districts where the high-velocity winds caused by the cyclone also led to disruption of the power supply. Officials said that while assessment of the damages will take sometime the current focus was on relief and rehabilitation.
Restoration work also commenced immediately in Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Mayurbhanj districts with 52 units of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 66 units Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and 180 units of fire personnel deployed in these areas swinging into action to clear roads which had been blocked by fallen trees and blown thatched roofs. Forest and environment department has also sent around 200 teams with expertise in tree cutting to ensure that there is no major disruption of road communication due to the uprooting of trees and such other obstacles.
The bigger challenge for the administration, however, is tackling the threat of flash floods and severe waterlogging which has occurred in several areas of Balasore and Bhadrak close to the sea coast. As Yaas touched the Odisha coast around 9 am on Wednesday, hide tides aided by strong onshore winds led to the inundation of severe seaside villages in Dharma in Bhadrak district and in the Talsara panchayat of Balasore’s Jaleswar block.
Dhamra, where an important port is located, was the worst hit by the cyclone which made landfall to the north of this seaside settlement. Though fortunately for the people of Odisha the wind velocity of the cyclone ranged between 130 kilometre per hour ( kmph) to 150 kmph instead of between 145 kmph to 185 kmph as predicted earlier, the strong winds still caused a lot of damage to mud and thatched houses and also to fishing boats.
The bigger problem, however, was the heavy rain that accompanied the winds. Torrential rains hit all the four districts — Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara — which had been identified as most vulnerable to the gale. Rains also caused widespread damage in the northern district of Mayurbhanj through which the system moved towards Jharkhand. While the Kusumi area of Mayurbhaj recorded a rainfall of 304 mm some areas in Bhadrak, Kenndrapara and Jagatsinhpur recorded a rainfall of more than 250 mm.
In view of the extremely heavy rainfall, a red warning has been issued for Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal districts, and a yellow warning for heavy to very heavy rainfall in the four western districts of Angul, Deogarh, Sundargarh and Sambalpur. This has led to the fear of flash floods for which district collectors have been on alert.
While wind speed in most of the affected Odisha districts will continue to be high till Thursday morning when the cyclone dissipates and turns into a deep depression hitting neighbouring Jharkhand, the threat from tidal surges will remain for some more time in the seaside settlements. In fact, at one or two places high waves from the sea have caused breaches in saline embankments resulting in the inundation of low-lying areas. Senior government officials said that saline inundation had been reported from Dhamra area of Bhadrak district and Bahanaga, Remuna, Baliapal and Balasore town of Balasore district. People cut roads at several places to reduce water-logging.
Restoration work is in full swing in Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara. “National Disaster Response Force and State fire service personnel started road clearance by removing uprooted trees in the affected areas. Power restoration work has also begun on a war-footing,” said special relief commissioner P.K. Jena.
The administration, which had moved around 5.80 people from vulnerable areas in the coastal belt to around 7,000 cyclone shelters, is also taking care to ensure that those in need get relief such as dry food in time. Local-level officials have been asked to take care of any exigency. Besides, extra care is being taken to ensure that people in cyclone shelters follow COVID norms.
“All these shelters were properly sanitised before moving people there. Medical teams were deployed at each of them and care was taken to ensure that people wore masks and maintained proper social distance. Pregnant and expecting mothers were taken to community health centres. In serious cases, they were shifted to hospitals,” said a senior official.
Odisha being used to natural disasters like cyclones has put its experience to good use with advance planning. The state government, which had started preparing for the cyclone right from the day the IMD warned it about a storm brewing in the Bay of Bengal, had not only deployed teams of NDRF, ODRAF and fire personnel to take care of exigencies, it had also deputed five senior IAS and IPS officers to manage the situation in the five most vulnerable districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Mayurbhanj. Minister of state for home, Dibyashankar Mishra, who also handles the energy portfolio, had been asked to camp in Balasore.