A fierce Phailin took Jharkhand by storm on Mahanavami, but its cyclonic zeal was little match for the deeply ingrained annual spirit of Durga Puja.
Even as the tempest maimed and killed on its tumultuous path, revellers refused to call it the end of festive days. While some braved inclement weather to go pandal-hopping on Sunday, others extended their pratima darshan beyond Vijaya Dashami on Monday.
Gale winds at 50kmph struck Ranchi around 2am on Sunday. The bluster continued for the entire day and was accompanied by downpour, which reduced visibility and made commuting a challenge. The cyclonic weather flattened welcome gates, uprooted big trees and electricity poles, played havoc with power supply for over 24 hours and put capital residents under house arrest.
Pandal streets wore deserted look on Navami morning, except for blinking headlights of vehicles caught in the storm. Around noon, when the haze of dust and rain cleared for a brief while, some intrepid gangs were seen near pandals only to be sent scurrying for cover by another spell of showers.
Power supply to a major chunk of the city, including Harmu, Argora and Ashoknagar, remained MIA from Sunday morning till evening. Unluckier pockets like Bariatu, Morabadi, Kanke (including VIP areas), Kokar, Kantatoli and Doranda reeled under the crisis till Monday evening, an ordeal of almost 30 hours.
“The blackout was the unkindest cut of all. It not just scuttled our pandal-hopping plans, but also spoiled the festive platter because refrigerators did not work,” bitterly recalled Bariatu resident and government employee S. Sharan.
Phailin won’t remain a happy memory for Puja organisers either. Though most pandals survived the stormy onslaught, waterlogging in some places messed up footfall records.
“As many as 10 of our gates were flattened by the cyclone. Lighting arrangements were damaged or destroyed. Some pratimas and pandals were affected too,” said Chanchal Chatterjee, working president of Ranchi Mahanagar Durga Puja Committee.
The Ranchi weather office recorded 125.8mm of rainfall in the past two days.
“The cyclone entered Jharkhand from north of Chhattisgarh around 11.30pm on Saturday, the eye being 40km southwest of Daltonganj. It departed for Bihar around 9am on Sunday,” said J.S. Jojo, acting director of the Ranchi Met office.
He predicted more rainfall in the next 24 hours, owing to cyclonic circulations over Bihar and adjoining areas.
Calamity was conquered by faith in the coal capital. The cyclone-induced maverick weather notwithstanding, devotees came out in droves — armed with brollies to boots.
Sashi Bhushan Singh, president of Sarbojanin Puja Committee of Bhuli, said that even though two pandals collapsed in the area, the footfall swelled over 10,000 on Navami.
Incessant showers also took minor toll on the traditional Ravan Dahan timing in Sindri. The Dussehra blitz had to be performed on Tuesday, instead of Monday. But, revellers did not complain over such extended festivities.
A 37-member NDRF team ensured that flooding, when water level in Maithon and Panchet lakes crossed danger marks, and building collapses didn’t lead to casualties.
Two deaths, crashing gates and power pangs marred celebrations in the district.
On Navami, Barkatha resident Babulal Prasad (45) drowned in rain-fed Barsoti river. His body was found on Monday. On Tuesday morning, one Mohammad Imran was electrocuted in the town.
Dussehra festivities were, however, not hit. Ravan Dahan took place near town bus stand in the presence of 50,000 people, including MP Yashwant Sinha.