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Cyclone Fani to make landfall on Friday; 11 lakh people evacuated in Odisha, train, flight operations hit

Bhubaneswar: As Cyclone Fani triggered downpour coupled with squally wind in coastal Odisha on Thursday, the state government moved 11 lakh people to safety and advised the public to remain indoor on Friday, ahead of its landfall around 9.30 am close to Puri.

The extremely severe cyclonic storm moved menacingly close to the Odisha coast and will make the landfall in the morning, much before the earlier forecast of 3 pm. Chief Secretary AP Padhi said the cyclone is likely to hit the coast very close to the pilgrim town of Puri around 9.30 am on Friday and the entire process of landfall will take four to five hours.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the people to remain indoor during this period, and said all arrangements have been made for the safety and security of the people.

 Cyclone Fani to make landfall on Friday; 11 lakh people evacuated in Odisha, train, flight operations hit

An Indian fisherman seen at Chandrabhaga beach in Puri district. AP

Padhi warned people that remaining indoor during the entire landfall period is a must. "There may be a lull before the storm, but it will be the most dangerous phase and people should be extremely careful and keep indoor," he said.

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, he said. The districts are Gajapati, Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, Naygarh, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore, he said.
Three more districts — Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar — may also face Fani's impact.

Moderate to heavy rainfall accompanied by squally wind have begun in several of these districts and the sea got increasingly rough.

With a few hours left for cyclone Fani to hit the coast, a massive exodus got under way 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.

Over 11 lakh people in 10,000 odd villages and 52 urban local bodies were shifted to cyclone shelters and other safe houses, officials said. "The evacuation process, carried out on a war footing, is almost complete," said an official.

Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens at the cyclone shelters. Around 4,000 such shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres, are housing the evacuees. Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping for which two choppers requisitioned, Special Relief Commissioner BP Sethi said.

Fani is billed as the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and left a trail of destruction in vast swathes of the state, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre. India Meteorological Department sources said it is also the first cyclonic storm of such severity to have formed in April in India's oceanic neighbourhood in 43 years.

Lugging their valuables, people were seen boarding buses and trucks, or walking to safer places amid drizzle on a windy day. Fani, according to sources, has gathered speed and is rolling dangerously towards the coast clocking 17 km per hour.

The latest IMD bulletin said it lay centred over west-central Bay of Bengal about 275 km south-southwest of Puri. Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have already been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire service have also been deployed in vulnerable areas.

Leave of all doctors and health officials have been cancelled till May 15, Padhi said. State police chief RP Sharma said leave of all police personnel have been cancelled.

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.

The Railways said a large number trains have been cancelled as a precautionary measure. "Emergency control is to operate round-the-clock with helpline number for guiding passengers. No staff is to be allowed to go on leave for the next three days," it said in New Delhi.

The East Coast Railway has cancelled over 147 trains till 4 May, an ECoR official said in Bhubaneswar. Three special trains were run from Puri to Howrah and Shalimar in West Bengal on Thursday to facilitate the evacuation of tourists, he said, adding that train services between Bhadrak and Vizianagaram stood cancelled for at least two days from Thursday evening.

Flight operations from Bhubaneswar airport is also suspended for 24 hours from Thursday midnight. "Alerted all concerned to be ready to deal with Cyclone Fani. Airport Authority of India issued alert to all coastal airports to ensure all precautions, SOPs put in place immediately," Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said in tweet.

India's biggest oil and gas producer ONGC has removed close to 500 of its employees from offshore installations in the Bay of Bengal and moved drilling rigs to safer locations. Sources privy to the development said operations at Paradip and Gopalpur Ports in Odisha and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh have been shut and ships have been ordered to move out to sea to avoid damage. The refineries are operating but with all precautions in place.

After crossing Odisha, the cyclone is likely to move towards West Bengal before tapering off. It is, however, still likely to impact parts of the northeast, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. There is forecast of massive tides that could surge up to 1.5 metres during the landfall, Sethi said. Fishermen have been advised against venturing into the sea.

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Updated Date: May 02, 2019 23:30:58 IST