Mumbai: A week since cyclone Nisarga made landfall in Maharashtra, over 3 lakh households in the coastal districts of Raigad and Ratnagiri remain without power, and relief seems unlikely soon.
Restoration work continues on a war footing, but the incoming monsoon season, expected to enter these areas later this week, is likely to hamper efforts.
Cyclone Nisarga spared capital Mumbai of any major damage but battered other districts in the state’s Konkan division.
It made landfall in Raigad with a wind speed of 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph. However, within hours, it weakened to a cyclonic storm from a severe cyclonic storm and further to a deep depression by night.
Nisarga killed six people and injured 15 people as timely evacuation of people from the path of the storm mitigated the scope for massive casualties. Even so, the cyclone ravaged large parts of the two districts. Roofs crumbled, crops were destroyed and more than 2 lakh trees were hit, many uprooted. According to officials of the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), power substations, feeder lines and electricity poles all bore the brunt of the cyclone.
MSEDCL officials say power has since been restored in 60 per cent of Raigad’s affected households, and around 90 per cent of Ratnagiri’s, but repair work remains a challenge.
“The situation is very bad. We are working on a war footing to restore power supply to all our affected consumers at the earliest, but there are many challenges,” said an MSEDCL official who traveled to Raigad district to oversee the initial work.
“At a lot of places, uprooted trees are still blocking roads. It is difficult to get our manpower and material to the spot. Moreover, the rains are forecast to be just 2-3 days away and that may further hamper restoration work,” the official added.
If the rains weren’t in the picture, officials say, it would have taken another 10 days to completely repair the power infrastructure and restore supply to users in Raigad, and four to five days in Ratnagiri.
Over 1,000 workers sent to affected districts
In the Raigad district, which bore the brunt of the storm, 6.35 lakh consumers lost power supply in its immediate aftermath. MSEDCL officials said, as of Wednesday, power supply had been restored for 3.62 lakh consumers. Overall, of the 1,976 villages affected, the MSEDCL had restored power supply in 820 by Wednesday.
The cyclone affected the functioning of 36 substations in Raigad and several high-tension and low-tension lines, feeder lines and transmission poles. Of the 36 substations, the functioning of 30 had been restored by Wednesday, according to MSEDCL data.
Repairing substations is the first step in reinstating electricity supply to end users. After the MSEDCL repairs substations, it restores the main feeder line connecting the substation, and then the smaller low-tension lines that ultimately connect to the end user.
The situation in Ratnagiri, just over 260 km from Raigad, is slightly better. Vikas Puri, the MSEDCL’s Kolhapur region spokesperson who holds additional charge for the Ratnagiri district, said the cyclone cut power supply to 4.21 lakh consumers. By Wednesday, Puri said, the MSEDCL had been able to restore power supply to 3.77 lakh end users.
“The challenge in Ratnagiri district now is that the balance houses are very scattered and will take longer to connect to the larger power infrastructure,” Puri added.
The MSEDCL has deployed employees from different parts of the state, such as Kolhapur, Baramati, Satara, Nashik and Mumbai, to work in the affected districts, and also outsourced some of the work. Overall, a team of 209 engineers, 1,255 technicians, and 1,154 other other personnel is working on restoring supply at the earliest.