Vinson Kurian / PTI Cyclone Fani, an extremely severe cyclonic storm, barrelled through Odisha on Friday, causing widespread destruction and eight reported deaths. The India Meterological Department (IMD) said it would continue to move north-north-east over land and weaken further into a severe cyclonic storm.

The cyclone unleashed copious rain and a windstorm that gusted up to 175 kmph on Odisha, killing at least eight people, blowing away thatched houses, and swamping towns and villages.

‘Fani’, or the ‘Hood of Snake’, made landfall around 8 am in Puri, with roaring winds flattening huts, enveloping the town in sheets of rain, and submerging homes.

Though it unexpectedly weakened into a ‘very severe’ cyclonic storm in a matter of a few hours, it left a trail of devastation over large parts of coastal Odisha, with Puri being the worst hit.

Fani lay centred over land over coastal Odisha, about 10 km east of Bhubaneswar and 30 km south of Cuttack at around noon on Friday. The India Met Department (IMD) said it will continue to move north-north-east over land and weaken further into a severe cyclonic storm over a period of nine hours.

The severe cyclone will then emerge into the plains of Bengal with wind speeds reaching up to 100 kmph, gusting to 115 kmph by Saturday morning.

After landfall, the system is passing through Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore before entering West Bengal. Bhubaneswar was hit by high velocity winds of around 140 kmph.

At least eight people have been reported dead so far, senior officials said.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the situation, said Puri district, particularly the holy town where the cyclone first hit the land mass, suffered huge damage. “Energy infrastructure has been completely destroyed. Restoration of electricity is a challenging task,” he said.

Hundreds of engineers and technicians were working on a war-footing to restore power supply.

Work is on to restore road communication, thrown into disarray with thousands of uprooted trees blocking the way in innumerable places, Patnaik said.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) DIG Randeep Rana said not many casualties were reported so precautionary measures were in place.

Largest-ever evacuation

Ahead of the cyclone, nearly 12 lakh people were evacuated and shifted to safer locations within 24 hours from about 10,000 villages and 52 urban agglomerations in probably the largest such exercise at the time of a natural calamity in the country.

Telecommunication lines were snapped in several parts of Bhubaneswar and several other areas. Mobile towers were damaged and power supply was disconnected in many places.

A police booth was dragged some 200 ft on a highway by furious winds, while a massive crane alongside a multi-storeyed under-construction building collapsed on a row of empty huts, jolted by the howling storm.

Operations at Bhubaneswar airport remained suspended on Friday, while Paradip and Gopalpur ports were also closed as a precautionary measures. Around 220 trains on the Howrah-Chennai route.

Flight departures and arrivals were halted at Kolkata airport from 3 pm on Friday to 8 am on Saturday.

IMD predictions

The IMD has issued an outlook with respect to prevailing weather over Odisha and emerging conditions over Bengal and the North-Eastern States during the next few days. Odisha is expected to have moderate rainfall at most places and heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places in the north.

Isolated heavy rainfall is expected in south coastal Odisha and adjoining interior Odisha for today as the very severe cyclone moves over the region.

Light to moderate rainfall is seen at most places in West Bengal with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places. Heavy to very heavy falls at isolated places over the plains are expected tomorrow.