Hari Dhundharva and his wife Sonal sat at the doorway of their home in Bidi Kamdar area on Savarkundla Bypass Road in coastal Rajula town of Amreli on Wednesday. With the roof of their home having been blown away by cyclone Tauktae around 36 hours ago, the afternoon sun had left the couple perspiring profusely. In the front yard of their home were spread clothes and mattresses, all drenched in the rain which accompanied the cyclone when it made landfall near Una in Gir Somnath.
Despite the misery brought about by the cyclone, which had hit Rajula with wind speed in excess of 150 km per hour, the couple were seemingly content.
“Only five of around three dozen cement-fibre sheets which formed the roof of our home have been spared by the storm. We placed one of them as roof of our kitchen, the other to shade our paniyaru (place to keep drinking water),” 35-year-old Hari who is a casual labourer, says.
The couple says they sought refuge at Sonal’s uncle who has a pucca house in other part of the town. “Police had come to our locality on Monday morning asking us to move to a safer place. But we ignored their warning believing this cyclone will also pass like Vayu had done last year. But at around 7 pm, the wind became menacingly strong and we went my uncle’s home,” says Sonal.
The couple returned at noon on Tuesday, only to find that their house and belongings were damaged. “But I had no time to assess my loss as winds were still strong and it was raining as well. We were hungry too but all our firewood was wet. Eventually, we went to Sonal’s brother Gopal’s home, who has a cooking gas cylinder and had our lunch there,” Hari recounts.
The only relief, the couple says, is that a valve of water supply line near their home continues to leak water which they are fetching in pots. “Due to coronavirus outbreak, we were not getting much work. So, I’m left with saving of around Rs15,000. Fixing a new roof would coast at least Rs 30,000. But I can’t spend everything for the roof as one also needs money to keep the kitchen stocked,” he says.
On the other side of the road, Jeetu Chauhan (40), a casual labour rocked cradle of her one-year-old granddaughter Vidya amid debris of their damaged home. After the cyclonic wind started rocking their roof, Jeetu and her seven family members had sought shelter in a pucca kitchen of their neighbour Mansinh Gujariya at around 12 am on Tuesday. “We braved the storm without any injuries but the next morning, our ration was wet and there was nothing left to eat. Eventually, we went to Udyog Bharati school for food,” says Jeetu, who is a casual labourer.
A few metres up the hill, Shantu Shiyal tried hard to keep her six-weeks-old daughter Guddi asleep by rocking the infant’s cradle while holding her elder daughter Sheetal (18 months old) in her arms amid debris of their home flattened by the cyclone.
Shantu’s father-in-law purchased a tarpaulin sheet for Rs 600 on Tuesday morning to provide shade to the two children. “Sheets of roof were flying in every direction as the storm hit. We managed to reach a truck abandoned on the road and sat in its cabin throughout that night,” Shantu’s mother-in-law Jamna says.
Bidi Kamdar has predominantly kuccha houses having tiled and cement-fibre sheets roofs. Almost each such house here has suffered damages while a few have been destroyed. “But no one from the government has turned up so far though politicians camp here for weeks during election time,” Narsinh Gujariya, a shopkeeper who is among a handful to have pucca houses in the area says.
At Dev Enterprise, a hardware store on Jafrabad bypass road, people crowded its owner Kaushik Joshi for placing their orders to purchase steel and cement-fibre sheets.
One of them was Vijay Dobariya (36), a farmer from Barpatoli village of Rajula taluka. He offered advance payment to Joshi for seven corrugated steel sheets. But the trader turned it down.
“I’ll accept payment only after sheets are loaded on your vehicle… Everyone needs a few sheets. What if I run out of stock after accepting advance,” the trader tells Dobariya.
But the farmer, whose cattle-shed was damaged by the cyclone, says it will be impossible to restore entire structure. “The roof had cost me Rs 80,000 when I constructed it four years ago. But now, the trader is quoting Rs 3,000 the price of one sheet against Rs1,600 I had paid four years ago,” said the 15-bigha farmer.
Meanwhile, labourers kept on loading rubble of cement-fibre sheets from the store in a tractor-trolley. The store’s entire roof was blown away.
The town continued to be without power for the third consecutive day Wednesday. Trees and electric polls felled by the cyclone were cleared from roads and streets, thus restoring vehicular traffic.