Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday said "a record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours" after Cyclone Fani hit the coastal state, claiming to have carried out the "biggest human evacuation in history".
He praised each and every one of the 4.5 crore people involved in the entire process -- the evacuees and rescuers -- as he appreciated volunteers and officials working round the clock to pull off the feat.
Cyclone Fani was one of the rarest summer cyclones, the Chief Minister said in a press release adding that it was the first one in 43 years to hit Odisha and one of the three to hit in the last 150 years.
"Because of this rarity, tracking and prediction were challenging. Till 24 hours of landfall of the cyclone -- one was not sure about the trajectory it was going to take," Mr Patnaik said.
"However, we prepared ourselves to face all the possible eventualities. This led to one of the biggest human evacuations in history - a record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours. 3.2 lakh from Ganjam and 1.3 lakh people from Puri."
"I would like to thank all the volunteers, PRI members, officials, and staff who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to get around 1.2 million people to safety. Instead of it being a tragedy of humongous proportions, we are in the process of restoring critical infrastructure. I thank the 4.5 crore people who have made this possible," Mr Patnaik said.
'Fani' made a landfall in Puri with a wind speed of more than 200 kmph and gusting speed of 240 kmph. It tore apart critical infrastructure, especially power, telecom and water supply.
"Lakhs of trees were uprooted, blocking roads, breaking homes and damaging public infrastructure. In Puri district and parts of Khurda, electricity infrastructure has been totally devastated and we have the challenge of having to set up the entire electrification afresh," Mr Patnaik said.
The districts of Cuttack, Bhadrak, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Nayagada have also been affected.
Preliminary reports suggest kuccha houses have been completely destroyed in Puri, parts of Khurda and other districts.