Agencies, Bhubaneswar/ Hyderabad
Lakhs of people were evacuated to safety as the very severe grade 5 cyclonic storm ‘Phailin,’ packing winds of over 220 kmph, which lay centred close to Paradip, advanced towards the east coast.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force(NDRF), along with the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), army jawans and IAF and helicopters were on standby to be pressed into service to assist the state governments in relief and rescue operations in the aftermath of the cyclone, expected to make landfall by tomorrow evening on the Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh coasts.
The Naveen Patnaik government sounded a high alert in seven coastal districts of Orissa likely to be affected badly by the cyclonic storm which will cross Gopalpur tomorrow evening.
Chief Secretary J K Mohapatra said about 1.5 lakh people alone will be evacuated from Ganjam district,
Another 1 .5 lakh people will be evacuated by tonight and tomorrow morning from the other six coastal districts.
Already 44,000 people have been evacuated from Puri district, 24,000 from Jagatsinghpur,22,400 from Ganjam and 4,000 from Kendrapada district by this evening and the process is still continuing.
Met sources said the very severe cyclonic storm, over east central Bay of Bengal moved northwestwards and lay centred at about 440 km south-southeast of Paradip and 450 km southeast of Gopalpur.
It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur (Odisha) by tomorrow evening.
Reports from the coastal districts said rains have already started in many parts of the state and the sea has become very rough as the cyclonic storm is advancing to the coast.
Squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would prevail along and off Odisha coast and would increase in intensity with gale wind speed reaching 210-220 kmph along and off coastal districts of south Odisha at the time of landfall tomorrow.
Met sources said the storm surge with height of around 3.0 meters above astronomical tide would inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha during landfall.
The East Coast Railway(ECOR) has already cancelled several passengers trains tomorrow in view of the cyclone and made special arrangement to carry the relief materials to the cyclone hit areas.
The severe cyclonic storm, Phailin, over east central Bay of Bengal moved west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph and lay centred about 520 km south-southeast of Paradip, 530 km from Gopalpur and east-southeast of Kalingapatnam.
Adjoining West Bengal also stands threatened by the possibility of the natural calamity disrupting normal life and spoiling the Durga puja festival.
Meteorological office said the cyclone,originating from the Bay of Bengal, is likely to hit the West Bengal-Odisha coast around tomorrow evening, triggering torrential rain with a gale speed of more than 200 km per hour.
‘The depression has turned grave and can be classified as grade five cyclone,’ a Met department bulletin said in Kolkata. The met office said the effect of the cyclone is likely to be intense on West Bengal, particularly in the southern coastal areas.
The Army, Air Force and the Navy have been asked to be in full readiness to provide all support in view of the impending cyclone.
‘’Defence Minister A K Antony has directed the three Services to be in full readiness to provide all support in view of the impending cyclone, Phailin,’’ a spokesman of the defence ministry said in New Delhi.