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My One On One Encounter With Cyclone Fani That Has Devastated Odisha As We Know It

Cyclone Fani | 3rd May 2019 | Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

The scene in front of my aunt's house in Bhubaneswar (by even all of these trees had been uprooted)

I remember waking up that morning and looking out of the window at the swaying trees. Slowly one by one they all fell down. After a while, the wind stopped blowing. Everything came to a standstill. We thought the cyclone had passed. Little did we know that it was the calm before the storm. Or as my little sister sang, "Yeh to trailer hai, pura film dikhane aayi."

The wind returned, at least 3 times mightier than before (200kmph we later learned). This time it was scary af. The glass windows were rattling as if any minute they would burst, the entire house was shaking and then we heard a loud sound as the asbestos roof of the staircase landing fell with a spine chilling thud. 

We were saved by mere minutes.

Me trying to stop the cyclone before it showed it's real strength

Because we had gone to the roof to get a better look at the surrounding. We were immensely lucky that the asbestos didn’t fall on us. Hours went by but the cyclone showed no sign of stopping. The wind was making a whistling sound, more like a flute. We could hear the poor street dogs howling. Everyone was helpless against the wrath of nature. Little did we know then how the following days would be. 

There was no electricity, water or cooked food. Basic amenities had become a luxury. As there was no cellular network communication had come to a complete halt. We had no idea how everyone else was. My family in Rourkela couldn’t contact us and were worried stiff. In fact, that was the scenario with everyone. In a matter of a few hours, we had been transferred to the Neanderthal Age. 

Nights were the worst. With the hot and humid weather post-cyclone and tons of mosquitos around, I couldn't sleep for 2 nights straight. We showered by the well. We drew water from the well and carried the many buckets to the second floor of the bungalow. Trying to get a generator for rent was extremely difficult. And people had started a business out it. The prices increased from 500/hour to 5000/hr within a few hours. 

After sunset the entire city was dark. If any street food stall was open ppl were hounding on it. Only one or two petrol pumps were functional and had a mile long queue. Same case with the few ATMs that were working. Everywhere I looked the trees had all fallen, electric poles and wires crushed, brick walls destroyed, roofless houses and so on the entire scene was devastating. What used to be a beautiful Bhubaneswar was in ruins. 

Finally, on Sunday we found tickets to Rourkela on a special train. The train which was supposed to arrive at `10.30 PM was 5 and a half hours late and came at 4 AM. We spent the entire night in the station and so did 5000 other people. I had never seen the station this crowded. Everyone was sleeping wherever they found a place. With so many trains canceled, tourists deported from Puri and other areas, and hotels unable to accept many guests due to lack of resources the people didn't have anywhere to go and were taking shelter in what remained of the Bhubaneswar Railway Station. We didn't have a cellular network to even inform anyone of the said delay. I cannot express the relief I felt when my aching and tired body finally rested on the side upper berth of the AC compartment of the train. The cold air felt like heaven and I slept like a log until we reached Rourkela station.

Bhubaneswar station at 2 AM

As I got out of the station, the happy green and upright trees was a sight to behold. There was electricity and running water at my home. It felt very weird after what I'd been through. I had somehow become more aware of the things I used to take granted for. After meeting everyone around I realized even though it was the same state the people who haven't faced it first hand would never know what it was like to be there. What it was like to go through all that. People in Puri, Bhubaneswar, and Cuttack are still suffering and living in the aftermath of the extremely severe cyclone. 

I believe it would take years to restore the aforementioned cities to their glorious states. As everyone is saying that Odisha is a phoenix and will rise again out of its own ashes. Kudos to the government of Odisha and everyone else involved for the millions of lives saved and the effort they are putting to restore the normalcy.  I hope after all this passes, together we can focus on the much-needed afforestation and rebuild Odisha like never before! 


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