Phailin impact: villages plunge into darkness

Officials promise to restore power in a week, but it may take much longer

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 14 October 2013

Cyclone-affected village in Kendrapada. People are using kerosene and torches at night (photos by Asish Senapati)

Phailin has left around 10,000 villages in the coastal districts of Odisha in the dark. About 200,000 people live in the cyclone-impacted districts—Ganjam, Puri, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Cuttack, Gajapati, Naragarh and Khordha.
Around 400,000 houses were severely damaged. About 240,000 houses are reported to have been completely damaged or destroyed in Ganjam district, which faced the worst of the cyclone. It is expected that large number of cyclone-affected villages will remain without power for several weeks.

“The state energy department suffered big losses pegged at Rs 400 crore. A major electricity grid in Ganjam district was damaged. We are trying our best to provide electricity within a week,” said Pradeep Jena, commissioner cum secretary with Department of Energy, Odisha.

"The devastating cyclone uprooted electric poles and other infrastructure, plunging areas into darkness and turning back the clock many decades," said K Alia of the seaside village Aryapali in Ganjam district.
As night descends in the cyclone-ravaged areas, the villages become engulfed darkness. The only light to be seen for miles around is the glimmer of stars.

Journey back in time

A trip to Batighar, a cyclone-hit seaside village in Kendrapada district on Monday was like a journey back in time. It has no power. In the evening when night falls, the only light that touches the lives of the residents of this village is from nearby oil refinery in port town Paradip.

Women in cyclone-ravaged coastal villages try to finish all household chores before sunset

"It is a strange, mixed feeling. We feel both happy and jealous seeing the lights from across the river. But then we only pray that light will come to our village soon; the authorities promised to repair the damaged electric poles," said Arjun Mandal, one of the residents.
For the women, absence of electricity means that most household chores have to be completed before dark. "It becomes very difficult after it gets dark. We have to either burn candles or lamps. But when it is windy, even keeping them burning near the hearths becomes very difficult," said Mandira Sahoo of village Dahibar, which has a population of 4,000.
Driven by necessity, some villages like Batighar, Kajalapatia, Badatubi, Sanatube have devised their own way of recharging their mobile phones—by walking to the government-run cyclone shelter in Kharinashi where the district administration has provided a generator.

Follow the sun

"For us, life now begins and sets with the sun. After dusk, there is nothing to do in this village. We keep the dark at bay with kerosene lamps and torches. The situation is quite gloomy," said Parikhita Swain of Batighar.

Authorities say they are working on restoring water, power and other essential services, but that it would be a long time before normalcy returns. “Around 13 million people, spread over 110 blocks, 15,315 villages, 39 towns and 1,924 gram panchayats in Odisha have been affected. Standing paddy crop on over 500,000 hectares have been damaged. Eighteen persons and 832 cattle also perished because of nature’s fury,” said S N Patro, revenue minister of Odisha.


Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.