Cyclone Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm over the east coast in nearly two decades, is due to make landfall in Odisha’s Puri around 9:30 am on Friday, hours ahead of its expected time. Apart from Odisha, the storm is likely to affect other states on the east coast – West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and devastated large parts of Odisha, is expected to cross the holy town of Jagannath Puri May 3 morning, packing winds up to 175 KMPH before the landfall.
An estimated 10,000 villages and 52 towns in Odisha will be hit by the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm. A total of 11.5 lakh people in Odisha were moved to safer areas.
The storm is likely to impact Odisha’s coastal districts Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore. In West Bengal, it will affect districts of East and West Medinipur, South and North 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogly, Jhargram besides the Kolkata city.
In Andhra Pradesh, the cyclone is likely to hit Srikakulam, Vijayanagram and Visakhapatnam districts.
Moderate to heavy rainfall accompanied by squally wind already began on Thursday evening in several of districts of Odisha and the sea got increasingly rough.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with top officials and reviewed the preparedness to tackle the situation that might arise once the cyclone makes the landfall.
When will Cyclone Fani make landfall?
Fani is likely to cross Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, south of the temple town of Puri, with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph, according to India Meteorological Department.
Earlier, Sangram Mohapatra, Spokesperson, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority said Fani, which was earlier expected to hit Odisha at 5:30 pm Friday tomorrow, will hit the state earlier at 12 pm-2 pm.
However, PTI quoted sources saying that Fani has gathered speed and is rolling menacingly towards Odisha coast clocking 16 km per hour and is likely to make a landfall close to Gopalpur near the holy town of Puri between 8-10 AM, much before the earlier forecast of 3 pm on Friday.
Armed forces, 81 NDRF teams pre-positioned
Navy, Air Force 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 deployed in vulnerable areas to assist the administration, an official said.
Over 900 cyclone shelters in coastal and southern districts have been kept ready to accomodate the evacuees. Districts like Gajapati and Rayagada, where such facilities do not exist, they will be housed in schools and anganwadi centres.
Over 4,000 specialised personnel as part of 81 NDRF teams have been pre-positioned in the coastal areas of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal which are feared to be affected while another 31 teams have been kept on standby.
The teams have been equipped with additional boats, satellite phones, medical equipment, medicines, tree cutters, pickup and common mobility vehicles, and other gadgets.
NDRF teams have doctors, paramedics, engineers, deep divers and are equipped with boats, buoys, life jackets, scuba sets and latest communication equipment like quick deployable antenna (QDA), HF/VHF sets so that communication links function even if normal communication network fails.
Leave of all doctors and health officials have been cancelled till May 15.
State police chief R P Sharma said leave of all police personnel have been cancelled.
Over 220 trains cancelled, no flights at Bhubaneswar, Kolkata airports
Rail and flight services are likely to remain acutely disrupted over the next two days, railway and aviation ministry officials said.
More than 220 trains on the Kolkata-Chennai route have been cancelled until Saturday. The trains which have been cancelled include 140 mail/express trains and 83 passenger trains. Railways has pressed into service three special trains to move people to safer places.
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.
In an advisory Thursday evening, the Director General of Civil Aviation said no flight will depart or arrive at the Kolkata airport between 9.30pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday.
It added that the "resumption of flights" at Bhubaneswar airport and Kolkata airport "will be with positive clearance from respective air-traffic control".
"All airlines are requested to offer all assistance for rescue and relief operations in view of cyclone Fani. All relief material should be airlifted to be delivered to officially designated agencies," Prabhu tweeted, exhorting the aviation sector to rise to the occasion, an official said.
Here are the Railways and control room emergency helpline numbers:
Schools to remain closed in Odisha, West Bengal
The Odisha government has ordered closure of all educational institutions across the state from May 2. “All educational establishments should declare holidays from May 2 till further orders. All the examinations should be rescheduled,” said the office of Special Relief Commissioner (SRC).
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has also asked schools to stay closed and locals to move to safer places as the state braces for the extremely severe cyclonic storm.
Also, an alert has been sounded in coastal East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas districts, asking tourists to leave seaside destinations and directing fishermen not to venture into the sea.