Odisha seeks armed forces' help as cyclone intensifies

Oct 11, 2013, 08:31 IST | IANS

Odisha Thursday urged the central government to issue standing instructions to the defence forces to extend help as cyclone "Phailin" may hit the state Saturday

In a latest bulletin, the weather office here said the storm over east central Bay of Bengal moved northwestwards, intensifying into a very severe cyclonic storm and lay centred at about 800 km off Paradip.

It would continue to move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Paradip by Oct 12 evening with a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 km per hour, the weather office said.

The distant storm warning signal number has been raised to two from the earlier one at Paradip and Gopalpur ports.

The storm system will bring lashing rain and strong winds to the state's coastal belt, a senior official at the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre here said.

"Our past experience indicates that despite preparedness by the state government, a severe cyclonic storm requires support of the defence forces to mitigate the effect of extreme weather," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote in a letter to Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

"The defence units located in Odisha and nearby locations may please be directed to provide all possible support to the civil authorities as and when requested by the state administration," Patnaik said in his letter.

The state government has made preparations to meet any eventuality, and directed collectors of 14 cyclone-prone districts to deploy relief and rescue officials at vulnerable points.

People will also be evacuated from low-lying areas to safer places if this is required.

"We have asked all the officials concerned to stay prepared and conduct mock drills of relief and rescue forces. We have asked them to keep adequate food items, boats and tree-cutting equipment ready," special relief commissioner Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra told IANS.

He said the state has about 50 satellite phones and officials were ensuring they work properly in case there is disruption in telephone services.

Round-the-clock control rooms have been activated in the district headquarter towns, including the highly cyclone-prone Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Ganjam, Puri and Kendrapada.

A state-level control room set up in the state capital Bhubaneswar was coordinating with control rooms in the districts, officials said.

Patnaik held a meeting of top officials Thursday to review the preparedness for dealing with the cyclone. Such meetings are expected on a day-to-day basis.

"We are fully prepared, and we have adequate boats and food items ready. Disaster forces have been kept on standby," Satya Kumar Mullick, collector of Jagatsinghpur district, told IANS.

A super cyclone struck 14 coastal districts of the state Oct 29-31, 1999, killing around 10,000 people, as high velocity winds blowing at nearly 300 km per hour destroyed homes and other properties.

This year, hundreds of families living in villages close to the sea have started moving to safer places as they fear for their lives.

People are stocking up on essential food items and candles in the coastal regions, as the 1999 cyclone left them without electricity, water, sanitation, healthcare, communication and transport for over a week.

Food prices are skyrocketing in many places, including state capital Bhubaneswar, as some unscrupulous traders are allegedly hoarding goods to earn more in case situation worsens.

"We bought five kg potatoes at Rs.15 a kg, three rupees higher than the normal price," said Soumendra Mohanty, a resident of the state capital.

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