India is bracing for an extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani as it moves closer to coastal Odisha, ahead of its expected time. The storm, which is being seen as the country’s worst cyclone in five years, is likely to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal upon its landfall on Friday. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Thursday visited Special Relief Organisation office to review preparedness, and appealed to people to remain indoors until the cyclonic storm passes.
Cyclone Fani’s landfall, which was earlier expected to hit Odisha at 5:30 PM Friday tomorrow, is now expected to hit the state earlier at 12 pm-2 pm.
As per the latest bulletin of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Fani lay centred over West Central Bay of Bengal about 430 km south-southwest of Puri in Odisha, 225 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and 650 km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal.
It is likely to move north-northeastwards and cross the Odisha coast near Puri on May 3 afternoon with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph and gusting up to 200 kmph.
The IMD has forecast rainfall at most places, heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy rain at isolated places in coastal Odisha and the interior districts of the state on May 3.
Here are the Railways and control room emergency helpline numbers
— SRC, Govt of Odisha (@SRC_Odisha) May 2, 2019
— ALL INDIA RADIO (@AkashvaniAIR) May 2, 2019
Who will be affected by Cyclone Fani?
An estimated 10,000 villages and 52 towns in Odisha will be affected by the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm ‘Fani’, the home ministry said. A total of 11.5 lakh people in Odisha will have to be moved to safer areas. Of them, about 3.3 lakh people have already been shifted.
At least 14 Odisha districts – Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Khurda, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Gajapati, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar – are likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone, which
is also likely to impact Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
In Odisha, largest evacuation operation
A massive operation has been launched in the coastal state to evacuate over eight lakh people from low-lying coastal areas as the Cyclone ‘Fani’ moves closer to the eastern coast. According to the SRC, the evacuation of eight lakh people is the largest-ever evacuation operation in the country.
In Andhra Pradesh
A red alert has been issued for Srikakulam, bordering Odisha, and Vizianagarm districts in Andhra Pradesh as the extremely severe cyclonic storm moved closer to the eastern coast and is expected to cross the coast off Puri Friday. The railways deputed officers at major railway stations in Vijayawada division to help the stranded passengers in view of the disruption in train movement.
Railways cancel 223 trains
Around 223 trains, along Odisha coastline of Kolkata-Chennai route, have been cancelled till May 4, in the wake of the emergence of the cyclone while three special trains have been put into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas.
The trains, which have been cancelled, include Howrah-Chennai Central Coromandal Express, Patna-Eranakulam Express, New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, Howrah-Hyderabad East Coast Express, Bhubaneswar-Rameswaram Express.
The New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, New Delhi-Puri Nandan Kanan Express, Puri-New Delhi Purushottam Express and the New Delhi-Puri Purushottam Express, which had to begin their journeys Thursday have been cancelled.
List of trains cancelled or diverted
A special train has started from Puri at 12 noon, going towards Shalimar in Kolkata. It has reserved as well as unreserved accommodation. It will stop at Khurda Road, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jajpur, Kendujhar Road, Bhadrak, Baleswar and Kharagpur. The other two special trains will ferry passengers from Puri to Howrah.
Flights to and from Bhubaneswar cancelled
All flights to and from Bhubaneswar airport on May 3 stand cancelled on account of cyclone Fani. No flight will depart or arrive at Kolkata airport between 9.30 pm of May 3 and 6 pm of May 4 due to cyclone Fani, the DGCA said.
“Due to Cyclone Fani, IndiGo flights to or from Bhubaneshwar have been disrupted. Flights later in the evening on May 02, 2019 are likely to be affected and all flights operating on May 03, 2019 stand cancelled. We will continue to review the situation and provide real-time updates on our social platforms. We request passengers to check the flight status before leaving home and reach out to our customer care numbers (9910383838 / 01246173838) for queries,” reads the press release of IndiGo airlines.
Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said all authorities concerned have been alerted so that they are ready to deal with cyclone ‘Fani’ and all airlines have been requested to offer assistance in rescue and relief operations.
Relief work underway
In anticipation of the extremely severe cyclonic storm, the government has ramped up its efforts to provide relief measures and access to potential victims of the cyclone.
1) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the preparedness on Wednesday evening, said there was a need to give special attention to pregnant women, children, elderly people and differently-abled persons. The state government Thursday issued instructions to shift women in their advanced stage of pregnancy to nearby hospitals, as part of its evacuation drive in the coastal areas.
2) Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping in the areas to be affected by Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and devastated large parts of
3)Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service have been sent to vulnerable
areas to assist the administration. The 880 cyclone shelters in coastal and southern districts have been kept ready to accommodate evacuees
Tourists asked to vacate, schools, colleges closed
Tourists have been asked to leave Puri by Thursday evening, while Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar will remain closed from May 2 to 4.
The higher education department has directed all state universities and colleges in Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts to remain closed for three days from May 2.
All operations were stopped at Paradip Port and Cautionary Distant Warning Signal Number Three was hoisted in all ports in Odisha.
The eastern coast of India is no stranger to cyclones. On an average, five to six significant cyclonic storms emerge in the Bay of Bengal region every year.
Yet, Fani is a little outlier, mainly on account of its strength, and the route it has taken. Cyclones emerging in April-May usually are much weaker than those during October-December. There have been only 14 instances of a “severe cyclone” forming in the Bay of Bengal region in April since 1891, and only one of them, which formed in 1956, touched the Indian mainland.
(With inputs from PTI)