Promises of help poured in from the central government as well as international agencies, including the United Nations, for speedy restoration work in cyclone-ravaged Odisha as the state Wednesday estimated a tentative loss of Rs 12,000 crore due to Cyclone Fani. At least 64 people were killed and more than 5 lakh dwelling units were damaged in the state’s coastal districts.
The inter-ministerial team, which wrapped up its three-day visit to the cyclone-hit areas, assured the state government that the Centre would provide all support for the restoration work in all the 14 districts that have been affected by Fani, including the worst-hit Puri.
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An international delegation comprising officials of the United Nations, World Bank and Asian Development Bank and other organisations, led by the Department of Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Finance, met state government officials and assured them of support for the improvement of the prevailing situation in the coastal region, an official said.
“The state government sought support from the agencies in developing disaster-resilient infrastructure in power, telecom and water supply in view of Odisha’s vulnerability to natural calamities. The international agencies promised full support in this regard,” he said.
The central government has been assisting the cyclone-ravaged state and will continue to do so in restoration and rehabilitation works, central team leader Vivek Bharadwaj, an additional secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told reporters. Noting that the cyclone has devastated Puri, Khurda and Cuttack districts, Bharadwaj said there is a need to further strengthen the rural job scheme MGNREGA in order to provide livelihood means to the affected people. There has been substantial damage to houses, hotels, betel vines, orchards and coconut plantations, Bhardwaj said.
“Keeping in view the gravity of the devastation, the Odisha government’s action in providing relief and other assistance to the affected people is praiseworthy,” Bharadwaj said, adding that people have been provided with relief immediately after the cyclone. “The people have been given rice, cash and tarpaulin sheets,” he said.
The Centre, which has already released Rs 1,341 crore for immediate relief and restoration work within a week of the cyclone, has also engaged public sector undertakings such as PGCIL and NTPC to ensure quick restoration of power supply in Puri and Khurda districts, while 50 teams of NDRF are deployed for restoration work in the affected areas.
Meanwhile, the state government sought relaxation in disaster assistance norms and estimated a tentative loss of Rs 12,000 crore due to the cyclone. The state government in a preliminary report said while the loss to public properties was to the tune of Rs 5,175 crore, expenditure towards relief and response stands at Rs 6,767.56 crore.
“We have submitted a tentative loss figure to the central team. This amount may increase as the officials will undertake door-to-door survey to access the actual loss caused by the cyclone. The government will prepare a full report on the loss after the completion of the detailed survey,” Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) B P Sethi said.
In its preliminary report, the state government has estimated the highest loss in the power sector at Rs 1,160 crore, while the loss in the panchayati raj and the drinking water department stands at Rs 587 crore. “The loss shown in the preliminary report is purely tentative. It will go up as we get a detailed report,” Chief Secretary A P Padhi said after a meeting with the central team. Stating that there have been huge losses to public and private infrastructure in the calamity, Padhi said, “We have urged the Centre to consider revising the norms of the NDRF and the SDRF so that the loss in the power sector can be covered.” Though most cyclone-affected areas are limping back to normalcy, lakhs of people in Puri are still struggling without electricity in this hot and humid weather, officials said.
After languishing in darkness for 12 days since the cyclone battered Puri, residents of the seaside pilgrim town could see a ray of hope as power was restored on Wednesday in Shree Jagannath Temple and the Grand Avenue facing it. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Wednesday, while visiting Puri, announced 2.5 litre of kerosene each free of cost for all the affected families till restoration of power.
Stating that he is “saddened” by the damage caused to Puri, where Cyclone Fani made landfall on May 3 morning, Patnaik said, “I assure the people that we will make Puri into a world class heritage city.” With so many uprooted trees, safety is an important aspect of power restoration in Puri, Patnaik said appealing to all to “cooperate” in this humongous task as it is almost like re-electrification of Puri district.
Patnaik also expressed his condolence on the death of Mangaraj Rao, who died while working for power restoration in Puri district. The chief minister said 10 lakh candles will be available in the next few days for free distribution among families that have been affected during Fani.
“For next two months, sanitary napkins will be supplied free of cost to all,” he said. Patnaik also announced that 50 kg rice per family will be made available for all households in Puri. He said that assessment work, as per relief code, of damaged houses and buildings, has started and it will be completed within a week.