Anandapur Chronicles: Reminscing the tornado

  – Satyakam Ray

Odisha, India’s best-kept secret in terms of tourism, is infamous for its tropical cyclone and floods. All over the world, people are aware of the horror faced by the odias in the super cyclone of 1999. New storms turned up in Odisha to claim their fair share of havoc yearly to add salt to the wound. Cyclone Fani, Amphan, Titli, Phailin, and Hudhud have caused enormous devastation in people’s lives and property.

But, very few people know that Odisha faced a rare tornado in 1978. The new generations, of course, have no clues of any such incident. But, odia People in their early 60s can recollect the incident as a matter of yesterday. However, they have heard or read about the news in newspapers during their college or early youth.

The incident I will describe is the sixth story of the Anandapur series.

See the left-hand corner on the top.

On a fine April afternoon in 1978, everything was calm, usual, and people were going on their businesses. Suddenly, a piece of news spread like wildfire in the Anandapur town about the devastation caused by a tornado in some nearby village. The village was purunabandhaguda, located 10 km from Ghasipura, Anandapur. Stories of severe loss of lives were reported. The gossip circle of Anandapur was discussing the fatal incidents as heard by word-of-mouth.

The tornado lasted for nearly 10 minutes in the afternoon(around 4-5 pm). The houses were lifted in the air several feet above the ground and were crushed in a distant place by the fearsome wind. Many people’s bodies were found later in nearby tree trunks, whereas somewhere was crashed inside the ground. Even the cattle were not spared. All the water from the pond was lifted into the air, and the fish and mud crashed into the ground. No exaggeration in the description if anybody finds it too much. It happened, and the proof of the incident can be found in old journals.

Details of the tornado in an old journal.. a bit hazy, though!

After hearing the story from Maa, I was genuinely intrigued. So I googled it. Every account I have listened to was accurate. Even I found some interesting facts from the journal. I am quoting what I have read.

A ten-month-old baby was suddenly lifted some 20 feet into the air as though by diabolical hand and propelled forward some 30 yards and then suddenly and mysteriously gently put down on a thick heap of straw so that she did not get a scratch on her body.

It is stated that the village of Purunabandhaguda suffered losses of 141 human lives and 231 heads of cattle that day.

According to several eyewitnesses, a big ball-shaped dark cloud with a luminous red band suddenly appeared in the sky before the tornado. This was followed by darkness and the terrific sound of thunderbolts and whirling wind churning the area.

Most probably, all the residents of the village who were present that day died. Remarkably few people survived with severe consequences. Many were missing hands or legs or eyes.

2-3 days later, the red cross of the college went to the affected area to help the survivors. Maa was a part of the team. All the survivors were being treated in the hospital. When the team reached the place, the teacher first lined up the students outside the hall, where the people were treated. Even there was a shortage of nurses and doctors. The screams and anguishes of the victims were loud, and the student group was listening to them anxiously. The teacher, one by one, took students to the hall to help the victims. But the result was the opposite. A few students screamed after seeing some horrible scenes in the hall. When Maa’s turn came up reluctantly, Maa went to the hall to see a lady sleeping in the front of the hall, whose eyes had popped out of the socket! Further down the hall, many people were lying here and there with one limb missing, an eye missing, or other severe deformities.

The incident was a shocker for everyone considering the place had no history of any natural calamity. Many people who had gone to nearby Anandapur for work survived. Their whole family died in this mishap. The government gave the survivors much relief; the village was remodeled with new houses. It was also renamed. The complete agony and screams still linger sometimes in the survivors’ consciousness, and so do in the minds of those who went to the actual place to volunteer.

P.S.- Despite my many efforts, this blog couldn’t provide a clear view of the tornado’s devastation. So, the readers have to adjust to the pic., I got it from my research, which is very much hazy. Use your imagination!

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