Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba Tuesday chaired the third meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee to review the country’s preparedness to deal with the Amphan super cyclone expected to land between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya island in Bangladesh Wednesday afternoon.
Amphan moved over west central Bay of Bengal northwards with a speed of 180 kmph this afternoon at 2.30 pm as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm near latitude 17.0°N and longitude 86.9°E about 360 km south of Paradip (Odisha), 510 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal) and 650 km south-southwest of Khepupara (Bangladesh).
Continuously being tracked by the Doppler Weather Radar at Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, the cyclone is expected to move north-north-eastwards across northwest Bay of Bengal to cross the West Bengal – Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) close to the Sundarbans during afternoon to evening hours Wednesday, with maximum sustained wind speed of 155-165 kmph gusting up to 185 kmph, revealed DG IMD Dr M Mohaptra today.
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Director General, National Disaster Response Force, S N Pradhan said that 19 teams in West Bengal and 15 teams in Odisha have been prepositioned in consultation with the state authorities while a total of 21 teams in West Bengal and 20 in Odisha have been deployed.
Four NDRF teams have been deployed to Rajarhat, two to Kakdwip island and one each at Sagar island, Basanti, Namkhana, Patharpratima in the South 24 Paraganas district while two NDRF teams have been deployed at Digha in East Mednipur and one each at Hingalganj, Hasnabad, Dhamkhali in North 24 Praganas. DG IMD has said that the two worst-affected districts by the cyclone will be North and South 24 Paraganas in West Bengal with windspeeds ranging between 155-165 kmph with gusting up to 185 kmph, closely followed by East Midnapore district. All three districts are expected to receive extremely heavy rainfall.
Four NDRF teams have been deployed in Balasore, three in Kendrapada and Bhadra, two in Jagatsinghpur and one each in Mayurbhanj, Puri and Jajpur in Odisha.
Pradhan pointed out that the NDRF teams are prepared to deal with the dual problem of Covid-19 and the super cyclone with cyclone shelters, which have a capacity to house 1,000 evacuees normally, will now be holding much less.
“With the precautions we need to take for Covid-19, including social distancing, each of these shelters will now not be able to hold more than 4-500 people. They will also have to be sanitised,’’ said Pradhan today.
“We have been coordinating to deal with the cyclone for the past six days and have deployed teams according to the intensity of the cyclone in a particular area as well as the path it will be taking. In addition, six battalions – Varanasi, Patna, Guahati, Vijaywada, Pune and Chennai — have been kept on high alert, ready to be deployed if need be and heavy aircraft have been prepared in case air lifting is required.
Evacuation of these areas has already been started on priority, and that is the most important thing right now. We are also creating awareness about the cyclone as well as the dual burden of the cyclone and Covid 19 among residents of the area likely to be the most-affected areas. All our teams are also equipped with PPEs given the current scenario,’’ he added.
“The cyclonic storm started forming on May 16 and, over the next 24 hours, the windspeed of the storm is expected to reach 220-230 km per hour. The super cyclone is 15 km in height and has a very large scale – of 700 square km. While North and South 24 Paraganas will be extremely severely affected by the cyclone, it will be followed closely by East Midnapore in West Bengal. West Mednipore and then Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly, and the north coastal regions of Odisha will also be affected. Sub-Himalayan north Bengal, Meghalaya and Assam will also experience rainfall over the next few days. The windspeeds in Kolkata will be around 110-120 kmph,” said DG IMD Dr M Mohapatra.
Dr Mohapatra added that there will be extensive damage to buildings, uprooting of trees, uprooting and bending of electric lines, uprooting of communication lines and the disruption of rail and roads. A tidal wave of 4-6 meters in height above astronomical tide in the low-lying areas of South and North 24 Paraganas of West Bengal is expected, which will lead to saline inundation and, therefore, large-scale damage to crops. Districts like East and west Mednipore and also the coastal districts of northern Odhisha will experience tidal waves of 3-4 metres above the astronomical tide. The IMD expects the eye of the storm to pass over the Sunderbans.
IMD officials added that while Amphan seemed to be taking a similar pathway and trajectory as cyclone Bulbul, it is likely to be more devastating. “This is the most intense super cyclone that we have seen in the country after the 1999 super cyclone which landed in Paradip in Odisha,’ ’said Dr Mohapatra, adding that an intense surge storm was expected over the affected areas, especially in West Bengal, which would include “extremely heavy rainfall’’ and last for the duration of the landfall – that is from tomorrow afternoon to later tomorrow night.
Secretary, Telecom, Anshu Prakash, meanwhile, said the Ministry has been in touch with all communications service providers and that intra-circle roaming will be in effect during the duration of the storm. He added that rapid response and repair teams had been deployed to reinstall communications, especially for frontline workers and civil servants. Similar arrangements of emergency repair have also been put in place by the Power Ministry to repair power lines on an emergency basis.
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