Extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani tore into the east coast of India battering Odisha on May 3, claiming over 30 lives and leaving a trail of destruction in the state.The cyclone, claimed to be one of the rarest summer cyclones, prompted an evacuation of 1.2 million people in 24 hours to cyclone shelters before it made landfall in the temple town of Puri.The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has praised the government’s evacuation for its effectiveness, highlighting it had saved many lives.But the clamour for food and shelter grows in its aftermath, while experts underscore the need to strengthen coastal green infrastructure and tackle psychosocial trauma stemming from economic loss. As the weekend began for the rest of the world, extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani tore into the east coast of India battering Odisha on May 3 and claiming over 30 lives. The cyclone, one of the rarest summer cyclones, according to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, prompted an evacuation of a “record 1.2 million people in 24 hours” to shelters before it made landfall in the temple town of Puri. Packing wind speeds of more than 200 kilometres per hour (kmph) and gusting speed of 240 kmph, it left a trail of devastation in coastal Odisha, including in state capital Bhubaneswar, before blowing through West Bengal and barreling through Bangladesh. It tore apart critical infrastructure, especially power, telecom and water supply. Hundreds of thousands of trees were uprooted, blocking roads, breaking homes and damaging public infrastructure. In Puri and Khurda districts, the government now faces the challenge of having to set up the entire electrification afresh, Patnaik said in a press statement. Patnaik stressed that because of its rarity, the tracking and prediction of the summer cyclone were challenging. “In fact, till 24 hours of landfall, one was not sure about the trajectory it was going to take because of the predictions of different agencies,” he said. Odisha, home to 46 million people, has been struck by recorded 128 tropical cyclones over 200 years (1804 to 1999). Included in these strikes was the supercyclone of October 28 to 30, 1999, which killed approximately 10,000 people and had a 7.5-metre storm surge. Fani was the first summer cyclone in 43 years to hit Odisha and one of the three to hit in the last 150 years, said Patnaik. But long-running awareness campaigns, exhaustive evacuation drills and improved forecasting models complemented by alerts issued by the office of Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) in state capital Bhubaneswar, Odisha Disaster Response Force (ODRF) and the National Disaster Response Team (NDRF), have helped avert the worst impacts of Fani. The state government and Puri district administration also evacuated tourists, ahead of the landfall. Innovative approaches such as mobile information centres helped East Coast Railway officials reach out to most of the visitors staying in hotels along the Puri seaside, which was declared disaster-prone and vulnerable to the cyclone. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has praised the government’s “effective” evacuation, highlighting it had “saved many lives”. But the clamour for food and shelter grows in Fani’s aftermath, reminding many of the devastation brought on by the 1999 supercyclone. Experts also underscore the need to strengthen coastal green infrastructure and tackle psychosocial trauma stemming from economic loss. Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm #Fani, now a dangerous Cat. 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, remains just off the coast of India in this imagery from #Himawari8. More imagery: https://t.co/Zz3zZvHSii pic.twitter.com/yh8ROw6xPG — NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) May 2, 2019 Before the cyclone In Penthakota village close to the Puri sea beach, where 15,000 fisherfolk live by the sea, including some who have migrated from the state of Andhra Pradesh, a section of them had initially been reluctant to move to shelters in neighbouring Delta colony, given their experience in 1999 where facilities were not up to the mark. When Mongabay-India spoke to them on May 2, 12 hours before the cyclone made landfall, the fisherfolk community expressed dissatisfaction over the shelter arrangements. “We have seen the 1999 cyclone and we are not very happy with the arrangement of shelters. If there are prospects of damage, then let us be and let us die in our homes rather than in shelters,” Raj Bhao, a fisherman and a resident of Penthakota village, told Mongabay-India. “During the 1999 cyclone we moved to shelters but we struggled to get water and food,” said Bhao. Others of his community also echoed the same sentiments and feared that the situation would be the same this time around too. Tension prevailed in the area as tussles broke out between the fishing community and the administration over shifting to shelters. However, by night, with the help of local leaders and after much persuasion, the tension was defused and most of the villagers decided to shift to the shelters. People waiting at Puri railway station to leave the city. 1.2 million people were moved to cyclone shelters in 24 hours before the cyclone made landfall in Puri. Photo by Manish Kumar. Fani arrives A section of the fishing community that shifted to the shelters close to Penthakota, felt betrayed by the government’s promise of cooked meals. “A day before the cyclone hit Puri (on May 2), we were shown cooked food and were given rice and dalma (lentil and vegetable stew) but from May 3 we started getting beaten rice and gud (jaggery) and from the next day only plain beaten rice that too of substandard quality,” said Deepak Biswal, a resident of Penthakota, who is now in a Delta Colony shelter. Biswal said he feels cheated as the government failed to fulfill its promise of taking care of them. Another resident of the same area took refuge in another Delta Colony shelter said, “Our children are struggling as well as the women. Nobody from the government has come to take stock of our welfare. We are now given only beaten rice. The nearby shopkeepers also started black marketing.” He asked: “Where is the government now who wanted to make us shift to these shelter homes?” Reports of mismanagement of shelters elicited a positive response from the state government with the chief minister ordering the supply of cooked food for 15 days in the shelters.