One moment, there was silence. The very next moment, there was a loud shrill sound, followed by a massive whoosh, as the high speed winds hit the building. Hours after Cyclone Phailin hit landfall on Saturday night, the winds raged outside.
At the Ganjam district collectorate’s office here, where some officials and mediapersons took shelter from the cyclone, the tin-plate signboards made loud noises as they were battered by the winds. The false ceiling in a part of the building gave way. Suddenly, there was a loud sound. In the morning, it was found that a pick-up van had turned turtle under the impact of the winds.
Sleep was difficult, as the winds continued past midnight. A jackfruit tree outside the office swayed dangerously. Several deodar and mango trees, a sandalwood tree and a neem tree had already been uprooted, blocking the roads outside.
While there was heavy rainfall since afternoon, the winds gathered speed about three hours before Phailin made landfall
at Gopalpur. Power supply was cut since morning.
Earlier in the evening, at around 6 pm on Saturday, when the cyclone was about 190 kms away, Ganjam District Collector Dr Krishan Kumar looked a little anxious. Since morning, he had just eaten a sandwich, sustaining himself with a couple of cups of tea through the day, as he presided over a dozen meetings with his core team in his office in Chhatrapur. In between, he briefed mediapersons on the cyclone’s progress.
This reporter reached the Ganjam district collectorate in Chhatrapur on Friday, a day before Phailin hit the coast. It seemed a better choice than Gopalpur, Ground Zero. For one, the district administration was based in Chhatrapur, so there would be some arrangements for power back-up. Moreover, the district administration had a satellite phone, which would help if the telecom lines were hit.
After the 1999 supercyclone, the state was cut off from the rest of the country for a day. One of the few connections with the rest of the world then was a satellite phone owned by Shishir Gamang, the son of then Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang.