Cyclone slams coast, heavy rains in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh
Cyclonic storm Phailin Saturday night slammed east coast near Gopalpur in Odisha, triggering heavy rains and strong winds with speed reaching up to 200 km an hour while more than 500,000 people were shifted to safety in coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Strong winds uprooted trees, electricity and communication poles and thatched roofs in coastal Odisha and north coastal Andhra.
Seven deaths were reported from Odisha due to uprooting of trees and house collapse while there were no immediate reports of any casualty in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
Several parts of coastal Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra plunged into darkness at the time of landfall. Authorities have advised people to remain indoors till the cyclone completely crosses the coast.
Phailin is said to be the worst cyclone in 14 years and next only to 1999 super cyclone, which had killed 10,000 people in Odisha.
The exact extent of damage in the 150 km coastline affected by Phailin will be known only Sunday morning.
The eye of the storm touched the coast near Gopalpur and it will take an hour to completely cross the coast, India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General L. S. Rathore told reporters in New Delhi.
He said the wind speed could increase by 10 to 15 km an hour and the very severe storm would maintain its intensity for six hours after crossing the coast. Storm surges of 3 to 3.5 meters are also likely along the coast. Another six hours, it is likely to continue as cyclonic storm.
Rathore said the threat was not over as heavy to very heavy rains in coming hours might trigger floods.
The IMD has forecast rains over the next 48 hours in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and adjoining states. Heavy to very heavy falls are likely at most places. The met office has forecast extremely heavy falls of 25 cm at few places.
The storm is expected to inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, said officials.
Over 4.5 lakh people in Odisha and 1.29 lakh people in north coastal Andhra were evacuated to safer places. This is said to be one of the biggest evacuation in recent times. The army, navy and air force and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were on alert for rescue and relief work.
"On the whole, 12,000 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are deployed in Odisha and 600 in Andhra Pradesh," said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vice Chairman Shashidhar Reddy.
Twenty three teams of NDRF are deployed in Odisha, whereas there are 11 teams in Andhra Pradesh, he said.
"Crops will be the worst hit due to the cyclone," Reddy said.
He also said that of all the resources available with the NDMA, 40 percent will be used in Ganjam district in Odisha, which is likely to bear the maximum damage.
All flights were cancelled at Bhubaneswar airport while the railways cancelled 56 trains between Howrah and Visakhapatnam and diverted some trains.
Eighteen fishermen, who went for fishing in the Bay of Bengal in a trawler over a week ago, were stranded in the sea in Astaranga area of Puri district. The Coast Guard has been told to rescue them, police told IANS.
Andhra Pradesh's Disaster Management Commissioner T. Radha said winds with speed of 180 km an hour uprooted trees and electricity and communication poles in Srikakulam district. He said the electricity supply was also disrupted.
He said there was not much impact of the cyclone so far in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.
Officials said 129,100 people were evacuated from 294 villages of north coastal Andhra districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam. The authorities opened 115 relief camps.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who reviewed the situation at a high level meeting Saturday night, directed the chief secretary and other officials to be on high alert.
Nineteen teams of National Disaster Response Force, five columns of army personnel with engineers, communication specialists and medical teams have been kept ready for relief work.
Two helicopters have been provided by the government of India; the state has sought eight more.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday reviewed the situation arising due to cyclone Phailin on the east coast and directed that all possible assistance should be extended to the states which were on alert.
The prime minister reviewed the situation in New Delhi soon after his return from Indonesia where he was on an official visit.