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Nine Odisha districts on cyclone Yaas alert fall in Covid red zone, over 5 lakh evacuated

The Health Department has asked these districts to keep kits ready for immediate screening and testing after the cyclone. The state has also decided to suspend all work related to Covid, including testing, vaccination and door surveys, from May 25-27.

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: May 26, 2021 9:45:05 am
Cyclone YaasAn elderly woman in Talchua area of Odisha’s Kendrapara district being evacuated to a cyclone relief centre. (Express Photo)

Odisha has placed nine districts on high alert with the meteorological department warning that Cyclone Yaas will make landfall near the Dhamra coast in Bhadrak Wednesday morning — all of these districts are in the Covid red zone with more than 1,000 active cases each.

On Tuesday, the state government added Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar and Bhadrak to the list of districts under cyclone threat, apart from Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Cuttack where heavy rainfall is expected. Of these, Cuttack tops the Covid chart with 57,061 cases and 154 deaths in all, with an active caseload of 9,721.

The Health Department has asked these districts to keep kits ready for immediate screening and testing after the cyclone. The state has also decided to suspend all work related to Covid, including testing, vaccination and door surveys, from May 25-27.

This Tuesday, May, 25, 2021, satellite image provided by NASA shows Cyclone Yaas approaching India’s eastern coast. Yaas is expected to make landfall Wednesday in West Bengal and Odisha states.(NASA Worldview, EOSDIS via AP)

Besides, officials said, sealing and fortification of doors and windows are being done in Covid facilities “to avoid any untoward incidents”. On Tuesday, Odisha added 10,939 new cases, taking the overall state tally to 7,14,380.

By Tuesday night over 5 lakh people had been evacuated from coastal villages and low lying areas and shifted to shelters. The highest number of evacuations were reported from Balasore followed by Bhadrak. Officials said preparations have been made to evacuate upto 7.5 lakh people, with over 7000 cyclone shelters, including 860 permanent facilities, identified by district administrations. They said that 800 personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) personnel have already been deployed while IAF helicopters and Navy vessels are on standby.

“Cyclonic storm Yaas is very likely to move north-northwestwards, intensifying further into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm during the next 12 hours. It would continue to move north-northwestwards, intensify further and reach Northwest Bay of Bengal near north Odisha and West Bengal coasts very close to Chandbali-Dhamra port by the early morning of Wednesday,” H R Biswas, Director, Bhubaneswar Meteorological Department, said.

“It is very likely to cross north Odisha-West Bengal coasts between Paradip and Sagar Island close to north of Dhamra and south of Balasore, during noon of Wednesday…as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm… We have issued the highest danger warning for Dhamra and Paradip ports,” Biswas said.

“Going by different forecasting models, we are preparing ourselves to face the cyclone at places like Bhitarakanika, Dhamra and Chandbali,” Pradeep Kumar Jena, Special Relief Commissioner, said.

“We have made arrangements for the evacuation of more than 7 lakh people but we are not setting any targets. All public buildings have been readied in the districts that are likely to be affected. All arrangements, including food, water and medical emergencies, are in place,” Jena, said.

Indian Army’s Eastern Command spearheads response for rescue and relief operations in preparations for Cyclone Yaas. (PTI)

“All overhead drinking water tanks have been filled up and power back-up machines have been pre-positioned at different localities. The Energy Department has also deployed men and machineries in various districts for early restoration of power,” SRC informed.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik directed Minister of State for Home Dibya Shankar Mishra to camp in Balasore and monitor the situation. Patnaik said: “All precautionary measures have been taken. Every life is important and zero casualty is the policy of the government.” Five senior IAS officers have been assigned to oversee preparedness.

Apart from the districts on alert, isolated heavy rainfall is also expected in nearby districts, including Sundergarh, Deogarh, Angul, Khurda and Puri, which have been issued yellow alerts by the state’s meteorological centre.

Villagers trying to save their boats ahead of cyclone Yaas’ landfall. (PTI)

In 1999, Odisha experienced a super cyclone that led to at least 9,885 people losing their lives and nearly 1.65 million houses being damaged. In 2013, Phailin claimed 23 lives followed by Titli five years later. In 2019, the state received praise for its management of super cyclone Fani, which had a wind speed of 200 kmph and claimed the lives of 64 people. Last year, the effect of Amphan, which made landfall near West Bengal, was limited in the state.

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