An electric pole lies damaged in Ganjam. Picture by Gopal Krishna Reddy
Oct. 16: The cyclone has snapped the small-time businessman out of his fascination for city lights.
“As village folk, we were used to living without electricity,” said Berhampur resident Snehangshu Sekhar Padhy, cursing himself for leaving Rayagada, where he worked on his farm. “But having settled in a city and going without power for five days is torture. It seems like an unending nightmare.”
Storm Phailin has plunged the Odisha city into darkness. And the forecast is bleak. “The state’s power sector has suffered a loss of Rs 900 crore. Nearly 34,000km of low tension lines and 37,000km of high tension lines have been damaged,” energy secretary Pradeep Kumar Jena said.
“We are trying to restore supply as soon as possible. But it could take nearly a month in Ganjam district.”
In Berhampur, Ganjam, 13 substations have collapsed. The storm, which made landfall on Saturday, has uprooted 4.8 lakh electricity poles and damaged the supply network in 13 other coastal districts.
While the state requires around 3,000 skilled workers to undo the damage, only 1,200 are on the job. “We have requested the Power Grid Corporation of India, the National Thermal Power Corporation and the National Hydro Power Corporation to provide us with skilled manpower to deal with the situation,” said Jena.
Special relief commissioner Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said: “Power connections have been restored in several parts of the state. However, it will take a few more days to restore power in areas under Krushnaprasad block near Chilika lake and various parts of Ganjam district.”
Supply has been restored in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.
The flood situation continued to be critical in north and coastal Odisha, with nearly 650 villages in the worst-hit Balasore district still marooned. Sources said although floodwaters had begun to recede in many areas of Balasore, Jajpur, Mayurbhanj and Bhadrak districts, the discharge was slow because of the high tide in the sea.
The power blackout and the alleged failure of the government to supply candles and kerosene have compounded the problems. “For us the nights are endless as we can’t even light a candle. We live in constant fear of being bitten by snakes and scorpions,” said a man living in one of the cyclone shelters.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking an advance central assistance of Rs 1,000 crore for immediate relief.
“I would request you to release an advance of Rs 1,000 crore over and above the corpus of Rs 523 crore available in the State Disaster Response Fund for the year 2013-14. This will help in meeting the immediate requirements. A detailed report in the form of a memorandum shall be presented soon after assessment of the damage,” the letter said.