An estimated 10,000 villages and 52 towns in Odisha will be hit by the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm ‘Fani’, which is approaching India’s eastern coast and is expected to make landfall south of Puri on Friday, the home ministry said. A total of 11.5 lakh people in Odisha will have to be moved to safer areas. Of them about 3.3 lakh people have already been shifted. Flight operations from Bhubaneswar will remain suspended from Thursday midnight and from Kolkata from Friday morning, and will be resumed as soon the conditions improve.
The Odisha government has conveyed to the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s top body for handling emergency situations, on Thursday that 10,000 villages and 52 towns in nine districts will be affected, a home ministry statement said after a meeting of the NCMC, which was headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha. Action on evacuation is already being taken by the Odisha government and around 900 cyclone shelters have been made ready to house the evacuees.
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, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned of storm surge of about 1.5 metre height which may inundate low-lying coastal areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of landfall. “Arrangements have been made to warn people of the impending cyclone through announcements over public address systems, mass SMS and local media. Teams of NDRF and ODRAF have been put in place,” the statement said. During the NCMC meeting, the cabinet secretary reviewed the preparedness of the states and the central ministries and agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of the cyclonic storm.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has informed the NCMC that flight operations from Bhubaneswar will be suspended from May 2 midnight and operations from Kolkata will remain suspended from the morning of May 3 and resumed as soon the conditions improve. The railways have already suspended operations of trains in Odisha, the MHA statement said. Reviewing the preparedness of the state and central agencies, the cabinet secretary directed officials that people from vulnerable areas be moved to safer places, cyclone shelters and provision for essential food, drinking water and medicines be made.
Sinha also directed establishment of a central toll-free helpline for the public. He also asked the central ministries to set up control rooms to coordinate rescue and relief operations and advised all concerned to make adequate preparations to ensure maintenance of essential services in the event of damages caused to them. The Power Ministry has made arrangements to restore power supply in affected areas with least downtime. The Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry has made arrangements to move additional water supplies in the affected areas and is keeping in readiness packaged drinking water.
The Ministry of Food Processing Industries 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 availability of sufficient petroleum and oil in the affected areas.
The Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations while the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force units in the three states have also been put on standby. The Ministry of Shipping has disengaged all ships at Paradip Port and has deployed emergency vessels (Tugs). The IMD has been issuing hourly bulletins with latest forecast to all the states concerned. The home ministry is also in continuous touch with the state governments and the central agencies concerned.
Top officials of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal participated in the NCMC meeting through video conference. Senior officers from the ministries of home, shipping, civil aviation, railways, petroleum, power, telecommunications, defence, drinking water and sanitation, food processing, health, IMD, NDMA and NDRF also attended the meeting.