Odisha gears up for severe Cyclone Fani
Fani is the harshest cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that took 10,000 lives and destroyed more
Bhubaneswar: A massive exodus was under way in coastal Odisha on Thursday as thousands of people left their home and hearth, on foot and by vehicles, to escape the fury of cyclone Fani in probably the largest evacuation ahead of a natural disaster in the country.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) sources said it is also the first cyclonic storm of such severity to have formed in April in India's oceanic region in 43 years. Over 11.5 lakh people in vulnerable, low lying areas of 13 districts are being shifted to cyclone shelters and other safe houses, in arguably the largest evacuation ever before an impending natural calamity.
People from coastal regions were evacuated in large numbers
Nearly 3.5 lakh people have already been evacuated to safety, official sources said. "Evacuation is in progress on a war-footing. Around 30 per cent of the targeted people have so far been moved to safe places," said a senior official.
Fani, according to sources, has gathered speed and is rolling menacingly towards Odisha coast clocking 16 km per hour. It is likely to make a landfall close to Gopalpur near Puri between 8-10 am.
Satellite image of the cyclone
Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have already been put on high alert to meet any eventuality, apart from NDRF, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire service deployed in vulnerable areas.
Leave of all doctors and health officials, and police have been cancelled till May 15 and those on leave have been asked to immediately report for duty, officials said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the preparedness to tackle the situation that might obtain once the cyclone makes the landfall.
"Emergency control is to operate round-the-clock with helpline number for guiding passengers. No staff is to be allowed to go on leave for the next three days," the railways said in New Delhi.
India's biggest oil and gas producer ONGC has evacuated close to 500 of its employees from offshore installations in the Bay of Bengal and moved drilling rigs to safer locations.
Operations at Paradip port in Odisha and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh have been shut and ships have been ordered to move out to sea to avoid damage.
The cyclone is likely to cross Puri around noon and move towards West Bengal before weakening and tapering off. It is, however, still likely to impact parts of the northeast, with Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It will likely hit at least 14 Odisha districts.
Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens for the evacuees. Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has appealed to the people not to panic.
No. of dry food packets kept ready for air dropping
Speed of winds approaching Odisha
No. of people being evacuated to safer places
NDRF positions 54 rescue teams
The NDRF has pre-positioned its 54 rescue and relief teams along the coast and in flood-prone areas in the wake of the cyclone. There are 12 teams in Andhra Pradesh, two in Andaman and Nicobar, two in Jharkhand, two in Kerala, 28 in Odisha, two in Tamil Nadu and six teams in West Bengal.
Another 31 teams are on alert mode too.
West Bengal put under 'Yellow Alert'
Parts of West Bengal have been put on high alert. The IMD has issued a 'Yellow Alert' warning for Odisha, West Bengal and three districts of Andhra Pradesh. Fishermen have been asked not to venture out into the sea till May 5.
Flights, trains stand cancelled
More than 100 trains have been cancelled as precaution while three special trains have been pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas. Flights to and from Bhubaneswar airport have been cancelled for May 3.
Packing furious winds, heavy rains, Cyclone Fani batters Odisha coast