Cyclone Fani, which is forming over the Bay of Bengal with wind speeds up to 200 kilometres per hour, has turned into an "extremely severe cyclonic" storm, the Indian Navy has warned. Coastal Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are on high alert as the cyclone is expected to hit the Odisha coast by 3 May.
"The speed of Cyclone Fani at the time of rainfall will be 175-185 kilometres per hour," HR Biswas, director, Meteorological Department, Bhubaneswar, told ANI. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his officials and the National Crisis Management Committee to stay in touch with the states at risk from Fani.
Initially, it was being thought that the cyclone would graze the Odisha coast and veer off towards the north, but it is now coming straight at the state, officials said.
The India Meteorological Department has issued a "yellow alert" for the Odisha coast predicting heavy to very heavy rain in several areas. "The cyclone will move along the coast of Odisha and go to West Bengal. We have suggested suspension and diversion of railway traffic and advised people to remain indoors," Biswas said.
Odisha's 879 multipurpose cyclone shelters have been kept ready. The shelters can accommodate about one million people during cyclones and floods. Whereas, the Coast Guard and the Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations along with units of the Air Force in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal been on standby.
Odisha will have 28 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as a storm surge of about 1.5 metres height above the astronomical tide is likely to inundate low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in at the time of landfall.
Meanwhile, the Centre on Tuesday ordered the release of Rs. 1,086 crore to four states as advance financial assistance for undertaking preventive and relief measures to deal with the cyclone. Of the sanctioned amount, Odisha will receive Rs 340.87 crore, Tamil Nadu Rs 309.37 crore, West Bengal Rs 235.50 crore and Andhra Pradesh Rs 200.25 crore.
However, this is not Odisha's first tryst with a destructive cyclone. The state reeled in the aftermath of Cyclone Titli as well in October 2018. The districts affected by Titli were Gajapati, Ganjam, Rayagada, Puri, Kandhamal, Kendrapada, Keonjhar, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Khorda, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Angul.
More than 5.7 million people across 7,402 villages were affected and 27 people lost their lives in the natural calamity.
The state also saw immense infrastructural damage, which highlights the long-term economic loss that accompanies such disasters. The storm damaged more than 20,000 houses and completely destructed several bridges, culverts, embankments and roads in the state. Around 0.75 million livestock died and crops on 0.58 million-acre land were destroyed. The fishing industry also lost 300 boats, 473 nets, 607 fish ponds, 69 fish seed farms and 14.66-hectare fish farms.
In October 1999, a super-cyclone (known as the 'Great Orissa Cyclone of 1999') had swept through Odisha, killing at least 10,000 people and leaving an estimated 1.5 million homeless. Winds of over 250 kilometres per hour were recorded, and a devastating tidal surge drove across coastal plains. The storm was classified as a ‘Super Cyclonic Storm’ in the nomenclature of tropical storms that affect the north Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea.
Within a month of the cyclone's landfall, the Odisha state government reported 22,296 cases of diarrhoea-related disorders. The area's vulnerability to disease was also compounded by a lack of pre-storm vaccinations, raising fears of a potential measles outbreak.
Why is India's East coast so prone to cyclones?
India's eastern coast has a long history of devastating cyclones. 26 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones in world history have been Bay of Bengal storms, Down To Earth's report states.
Pre-monsoon cyclones occur regularly but they do not have much impact, but extremely severe cyclonic storms like Fani are rare in this season. Before this, Odisha has only experienced such cyclones five times in May — in 1893, 1914, 1917, 1982 and 1989.
Sarat Chandra Sahu, director of Centre for Environment and Climate (CEC) of SOA deemed university in Bhubaneswar attributes the severity to climate change. Environmental conditions, including the sea temperature of 30° to 31° Celsius, were favourable for intensifying the severe cyclonic storm into an extremely severe cyclonic storm during, Sahu — who is the former director of IMD’s Bhubaneswar centre — is quoted as saying in Down to Earth's report.
He, however, said that the interior districts of Odisha, which will receive rainfall, are unlikely to be affected by the cyclone.
Fani is only the second severe cyclone in the past 118 years to form in the Bay of Bengal (BOB) in the month of April and cross over to the Indian mainland, according to data from the IMD.
Fifteen years after the 'Super Cyclone', in October 2014, Cyclone Hudhud also hit India's eastern coast. At that time, the Odisha government had placed 16 districts on high alert: Balasore, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurdha, Nayagarh, Gajapati, Dhenkanal, Keonjhar, Malkangiri and Koraput.
At the time of the storm's landfall, strong winds and heavy rainfall commenced in southern Odisha districts, leading to disruption of power supply.
Over 13.63 crore people are now bracing for the impact of Fani.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: May 01, 2019 16:48:48 IST