On foot and on cycles, 60 families began their journey from Magarkanda village of Kendrapara’s Rajnagar block on Monday morning to reach a temporary shelter in a school building seven kilometres away in view of cyclone Yaas — such evacuations not new to their experience but a raging pandemic adding to fears in several areas this time.
Suda Malik (40), shifted along with his wife, two children and elderly parents, leaving behind two goats and eight cows. “For the last four years we have witnessed repeated cyclones, shifting our base at least four times,” Malik said. “At such times all that matters is that we are able to survive… It is a cycle we have adapted to.”
Kendrapara is among the five districts of Odisha put on high alert, besides Balasore, Jagatsinhpur, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj, after officials confirmed that Yaas is likely to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm ahead of its landfall on May 26.
Officials said that the total population to be evacuated will most likely be around 1.4 lakh.
Almost 180 km from Kendrapara in Balasore, the administration has begun evacuating people from low-lying villages. As many as 84 flood shelters and 500 school buildings have been readied.
Anadi Behera, deputy sarpanch of Kharasahapur village and managing the Panchupita cyclone shelter, said convincing people that Covid-19 protocols will be followed at these shelters has been a major task. The shelter which can accommodate 200 people will now accommodate only 100 people in view of the pandemic. “In the village, on May 19, 131 people were tested for Covid, of which 100 turned out to be positive. The fear of the virus is inevitable. It took a lot of convincing on our part. A few families have started walking here, others are still reluctant. Our teams are working with them,” Behera said.
Vaishnav Mahalik voluntarily moved to the Panchupita shelter along with eight members of his family on Monday afternoon. “We were apprehensive earlier because who will ensure that Covid appropriate behaviour is being followed here. But we do not have a proper shelter in a village.”
Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said, “All evacuation work must be completed before Tuesday afternoon. Construction labourers staying in temporary camps will also be evacuated to safer places. Arrangements to maintain social distancing, masks, sanitisers, will be taken care of.”
The Odisha government has relaxed the lockdown norms, allowing milk booths and shops selling groceries, vegetables, fish, meat, egg, etc to remain open on Monday and Tuesday from 7 am to 1 pm. The restrictions have been relaxed in Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghour, Kendrapara, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Puri, Jajpur, Cuttack and Khordha.
As many as 18 NDRF teams have been deployed — seven in Balasore, 4 in Bhadrak, 3 in Kendrapada, 2 in Jajpur, and one each in Jagatsinghpur and Mayurbhanj. 66 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) teams and 177 fire services teams have also been deployed in areas likely to be affected.
“The Cyclonic Storm is very likely to move north-northwestwards, intensify further into a Severe Cyclonic Storm during next 12 hours and into a very severe cyclonic storm during subsequent 24 hours… It is very likely to cross north Odisha-West Bengal coasts between Paradip and Sagar islands around Balasore, during noon of May 26 as a very severe cyclonic storm,” said HR Biswas, Director of Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre.