Cyclone Fani: No Electricity Forces Bhubaneswar Residents to Forsake Home For Hotels
Nearly 1.56 lakh electricity poles have been uprooted in Bhubaneswar and people are being forced to check into in hotels for power backup and constant water supply.
A view of the destruction caused by Cyclone Fani. (Image: PTI)
A week after cyclone Fani struck Odisha, a large part of Bhubaneswar continues to reel under darkness. Nearly 1.56 lakh electricity poles have been uprooted and most people in the cyclone-ravaged areas are being forced to check into hotels for power backup and constant water supply.
With temperature hovering around 40 degrees with extreme humidity, people in the capital city are living in sweltering conditions. Lack of electricity has also hampered the restoration work in the area.
“I witnessed the cyclone in 1999 and saw cyclone Fani now. If we compare both, the situation is extremely chaotic now. People are literally begging us for a room. ‘Just give us a basic room with a fan’ is what most residents have been demanding,” said Satish Raghavan, managing director of Venus Inn and Priya Hotels.
The tourists staying at Venus Inn before the cyclone hit Bhubaneswar were not able to leave due to the massive destruction in the city. A day after the storm, when locals started pouring in to the hotel, the already high demand peaked further.
“Some even cried in front of us, saying they have an elderly parent or a baby who is suffering because of the extreme heat, and they desperately need a room,” Raghavan said. “I have never seen a situation like this before.”
From budget hotels like Venus Inn to luxury ones like The Crown, all the hotels and lodgings in the city are experiencing full bookings.
“Our hotel has been running full since the last four to five days and 95 per cent of the rooms are occupied by locals only,” said Aditya Sahoo, AG Operations, The Crown Hotel.
Ahead of the cyclone, some hotels had arranged for generator back up and stocked up food supplies and basic commodities. But with each passing day, the demand is exceeding the supplies.
“When locals first started coming in, they booked rooms only for a day or two. So we offered them discounted rates. But then people kept on extending their stay as the power supply hasn’t been restored in the city yet,” Sahoo said. With a sharp increase in bookings, The Crown had to inflate their room rates to bring down the requests.
Among their customers are mostly middle class and upper middle class families who can’t afford to have 24/7 power back up at home. In fact, the demand for gensets is so high that traders are selling them for as high as Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh and above, and people have to wait in long queues to be able to rent one.
Sweta Patnaik, a resident of Tankapani Road area, went to stay at a local hotel with her entire family. “Three days after the cyclone it became really difficult to live without electricity and water. So our entire family, including my cousins and relatives, decided to move to a hotel,” she told News 18.
Patnaik returned home three days later when one of their family friends managed to purchase a generator from a neighbouring town. “We had to purchase a diesel generator at double the price from Berhampur because it was difficult to even step inside any of the shops in Bhubaneswar due to the high demand.”
Even though The Crown hotel cautioned the guests at the time of check in that they will have to stay without power for at least two hours every day as generators can’t be run 24/7, Sahoo said that “people are happily agreeing to it.”
As most city hotels are overbooked, Bhubaneswar residents are not hesitating from exploring options in the neighbouring towns.
“Restoration efforts of the local administration are taking quite long, and people are in no mood to suffer in this scorching summer without electricity,” said local journalist Biswajeet Patnaik. “Many are opting for temporary shelter in smaller towns like Berhampur and Gopalpur, where temperature is lower and hotels are cheaper.”
The Naveen Patnaik government has promised to restore power supply in Bhubaneswar latest by May 12. But considering the extent of devastation, the city’s rebuilding woes are likely to linger for a while.
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