With cyclone Phailin expected to make landfall in Odisha on Saturday,the state government mounted a massive operation to evacuate two lakh people from six coastal districts Friday night.
The cyclone is 400 km southeast of Gopalpur in Ganjam district where it is expected to make landfall at 6 pm on Saturday and 400 km south-southeast of Paradip,the latest IMD bulletin said.
Officials said clearing,forwarding,loading and unloading operations have been suspended at Paradip port and seven vessels have been shifted to the sea from the dockyard area.
The cyclone is 410 km east south east of Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh,The IMD said.
The wind speed has reached 45-55 kmph and gusting to 65 kmph already along and off the Odisha coast,it said.
“It will increase in intensity with gale wind speed reaching 210-220 kmph along and off coastal districts of south Odisha at the time of landfall,” the IMD said.
The sea off the coast would be rough to very rough and would become gradually phenomenal on October 12,it warned.
It said many parts of coastal districts experienced rain,including heavy to very heavy,which would progress to interior areas from October 12 night.
Chief Secretary J K Mohapatra said that two lakh people would be evacuated from six districts.
Nearly a lakh of people have already been evacuated from Ganjam,Puri,Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts,he said.
The state government which has targeted zero casualty this time in the backdrop of 9885 deaths during the 1999 cyclone,has decided to evacuate people much ahead,he said.
He said that the state government does not consider the impending calamity as less than the super cyclone of 1999.
Around three columns or 300 personnel of the army’s engineering wing are en route to the state and 12 air force helicopters are ready at the Barrackpore airbase in neighbouring West Bengal,Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra said.
Also 29 marine rescue teams and 30 navy doctors are headed to the state for rescue and relief operation with the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRF),he said.
When contacted,chief of the cyclone warning division Mrutunjay Mohapatra said,”We do not expect that the system will change direction now. It will in all probability hit some place near Gopalpur.
“The eye of the storm is about 15 kilometer and the size of the entire system is about 500 km. It is moving at a speed of 15 kmph and likely to make landfall near Gopalpur at about 6 pm on Saturday.”
He said he would not describe it as a super cyclone at this stage even though the wind speed is expected to be between 210 kmph and 220 kmph during landfall.
He said that the cyclone has reached the upper stage of a very severe cyclonic storm,but not the level of a super cyclone.
Appealing to the people not to panic,Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik,who reviewed the situation in the evening,said,”The state government is fully prepared to face the situation.”
The state government has started free kitchens to feed evacuees while leave of all doctors has been cancelled,Health Minister Damodar Rout said.
Local Cautionary Signal Number Three (LC-III) has been hoisted at all ports in Odisha.