Four Hours That Shook Brahmagiri

Brahmagiri (Puri): Tropical cyclone Fani cut a swath through Brahmagiri block in Puri district on May 3. The denuded trees along the stretch leading to Ambapada village wear the first signs of the ferocious windy onslaught. As we drove further, big cooking utensils on the verandah of the cyclone shelters caught our eyes. They had served their purpose and saved lives when strong winds pounded the region. But not all were lucky.

The denuded trees hint at the intensity of the devastation

The storm made the landfall along Puri coast at around 8.30 am, triggering heavy rainfall coupled with high velocity winds with speed of 175 kmph from North-East direction. After a couple of hours, certain calmness returned and people rushed back home to check their belongings, only to realize that it was nothing but a lull before the real devastating storm. Susila Dei (52) was one of them.

She went back looking for her cattle, never to return again. Her mud house with thatched roof collapsed like a pack of cards as the storm gathered speed with strong winds blowing from South-West direction this time. “We had to pull the bed out from the rubble while retrieving the body as she had got under it in a last ditch attempt to escape the sudden onslaught,” said her younger son.

Rama Chandra Jena standing near his mud house which caved in, killing his wife

Her husband Rama Chandra Jena is inconsolable. That very night they took her to Puri for postmortem and then the last rites. “They walked all way, which was strewn with fallen trees. It was very brave of them,” he said, adding that they had little money for the other rituals.

Another elderly man of the village noted, “I had never seen anything this ferocious in my life.”

Trees uprooted in the strong winds and fell on houses, causing irreparable damage

While describing the strength of the wind that ravaged the village, he pointed at a nearby banana farm, of which little remains, where a man spent hours unable to move a bit after having tumbled off the road, and then the paddy field further down where a cyclist got stuck half-impressed in the rainwater only to be rescued later by the villagers.

In the adjacent Kankuda Swain Sahi, the scene is no different. Here too a family lost its man under similar circumstances. The strong winds caught Jagannath Swain unawares and as he made his way out of the house, a coconut tree in the backyard broke and fell on the roof, bringing it down and wiping out a life.

Jagannath Swain was crushed to death after roof of his roof collapsed. His family is in a state of shock having lost the only earning member

His wife and two children found it difficult to recount the horror of the day. Within few seconds, their life had changed for the worse. “Who will marry off his daughter now?” asked his sister Satya.

According to government estimate, the death toll in cyclone Fani has touched 64 with Puri district alone witnessing 39 human casualties. And such sad stories stand testimony to the helplessness of the human race, which claim to have tamed the world, in face of natural calamities.

Pictures Courtesy: Arabinda Mohapatra

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