Puri/New Delhi: Cyclone Fani lashed on the Odisha coast on Friday morning with heavy rain and the wind blowing at 175 km/h. Trees got uprooted. Thatched huts were swept away. A few kilometres broad coastline of Puri is submerged.
Fani hit Puri at about 8 AM. However, for a second time since the devastation of 1999, the Odisha administration was found quite prepared for the eventuality. It had already evacuated about 11 lakh people from low-lying, susceptible areas from 11 coastal districts by Thursday evening.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre says Fani could be the severest cyclone since the super cyclone of 1999 that killed about 10,000 people and left a trail of destruction in vast swathes of Odisha.
Director of Regional Meteorological Centre in Bhubaneswar HR Biswas said, “It will take around three hours for the entire landfall process to be completed” by 11 AM. Landfall refers to the first lash of a cyclone on coastal land.
The “eye” or circumference of Fani is around 28 km. It is whirling at around 30 km/h, Biswas informed the media. The lateral velocity of the wind, however, is as high as 175km/h. it may increase to 200 km/h.
Odisha capital Bhubaneswar can be affected soon, hit by a high-velocity wind of 140 km/h.
Special relief commissioner BP Sethi said several coastal districts like Ganjam, Khurda and Gajapati are facing strong winds. Near about 11 lakh people evacuated from 10,000 villages and 52 urban areas are now staying in over 4,000 shelters. Out of these, 880 are specially designed cyclone centres.
Free kitchens will start at the cyclone shelters soon. More than 1 lakh dry food packets are ready for air dropping. Two helicopters will carry the consignment to the shelters, Sethi said.
Sethi informed further that no human casualty of Fani has been reported from anywhere in the State. The government is fully prepared to deal with the situation, he said.
Fani will traverse Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore before entering West Bengal, Sethi said.
Thirty-four disaster relief teams of the Indian Coast Guard are positioned at Vishakhapatnam, Chennai, Gopalpur, Haldia, Frazergunj and Kolkata. The force has deployed four ships to handle eventualities.
Three ships with relief material and medical teams of the Indian Navy are deployed for rescue operations if needed after the cyclone hits the coastline of Odisha.
Several aircraft have been kept on standby for immediate deployment to carry out an aerial survey, said Navy spokesman Capt DK Sharma. “Helicopters are also kept standby for joining in the rescue operation and for air dropping of relief material when required,” Capt Sharma said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has appealed to people to remain indoors during the period of the cyclone and said all arrangements have been made for the safety and security of the people.
All shops, business establishments, private and government offices except those associated with relief and rescue operations will remain closed in 11 coastal districts as a precautionary measure.
On Thursday, a massive exodus was underway in coastal Odisha as hundreds of thousands of people left their home, on foot and by vehicles, in probably the largest evacuation ahead of a natural disaster in the country.
Railways have cancelled more than 220 trains on the Kolkata-Chennai route until Saturday.
Aviation regulator DGCA announced that flights in and out of Bhubaneswar airport stand cancelled on Friday. Consequently, the operations of various domestic airlines have been affected.
The Union government has made its own preparations.
- The Ministry of Power has made arrangements to restore power supply in affected areas with the least downtime.
- The Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry plans to move additional water supplies in the affected areas and is keeping in readiness packaged drinking water.
- The Ministry of Food Processing Industries said it is keeping in readiness packaged ready-to-eat food.
- The Health Ministry has mobilised emergency medical teams, medicines and also coordinated with the Red Cross to provide assistance. It has kept ready 17 public health response teams and five quick response medical teams with emergency drugs.
- The Department of Telecommunication has issued orders to all operators to allow free SMS for cyclone-related messages and inter-operability of mobile networks by other operators.
- The Petroleum Ministry has ensured the availability of sufficient petroleum and oil in the affected areas.