This navratri, while rest of the country indulged in the festive mood, coastal districts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh geared up to face what could be one of the worst natural disasters in recent times. Cyclone Phailin hit the town of Gopalpur in Ganjam district of coastal Odisha on the night of October 12 accompanied by relentless rainfall and wind speeds as high as 200 kmph. This mammoth cyclone caused extensive damage to Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur and Puri.
The state government promptly responded warnings of the India Meteorological Department and did an absolutely commendable job by evacuating close to one million people before the cyclone could do worse. Though about 30 casualties were reported, property, communication systems and crops suffered substantial destruction in the aftermath of the cyclone.
Many schools across the coastal districts were converted into wreckage as their asbestos roofs were blown away by the gusty wind speeds. Textbooks soaked in rain water and tattered walls were the common scenario at these places. 328 high schools, 926 primary schools and 454 upper primary schools were approximated to have been affected in Ganjam district only.
The state government has made an estimate of a whopping Rs 300 crore to refurbish the damage caused to several universities in the state including 50 higher educational institutions as well. The Berhempur University has been the worst hit of all with most of its infrastructure viz administrative buildings, rest houses, police outpost, health center and campus school being wretched by cyclone's fury. The authorities extended the dussehra vacations and prohibited students from staying in the hostels for a few days on safety grounds. Almost Rs 145 crore is the roughly calculated reconstruction cost. Apart from that an additional Rs 10 crore will be required to repair electricity, internet and telephone lines inside the campus. The higher education department of the government of Odisha has sanctioned the varsity with Rs 5 crore aids as interim relief for immediate and urgent repair works.
The Utkal University in capital city of Bhubaneswar also bore the brunt of the storm as the walls of three of its ladies hostels collapsed and several trees got uprooted. The varsity needs renovation work worth Rs 80 crores which include Rs 67 crores of civil construction and Rs 13 crores for broken underground communication lines. The university's cyclone alleviation works include a cyclone shelter (0.9 crore), a new academic block (6.75 crore), a new administrative block (9.8 crore), convocation center (4.8 crore) and two hostels (9 crore). The damaged walls of several other buildings demand another 35 crore for repair.
The Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, which comes under the agriculture department has set a figure of Rs 30 crores for damage recovery out of which it will generate Rs 3.47 crores internally and the rest has to be funded by the government.
In addition, the government has made a ballpark estimate of Rs 10 crore each for Khalikote College and SBRG Women's college in Ganjam district.
With the delay in financial assistance from the centre, the BJD has sought the President's intervention to accelerate relief for the cyclone ravaged state.