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Cyclone Fani: Toll rises to 16 in Odisha as storm weakens, Naveen Patnaik says over 45,000 volunteers involved in relief ops

Cyclone Fani, the worst storm to hit the Indian subcontinent in 20 years and which left at least 16 people dead in India, weakened into a 'deep depression' and lay centered over Bangladesh on Saturday morning, after it moved further north-east from West Bengal, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said. IMD also said that it is expected to further weaken over the course of the day on Saturday.

The toll due to Cyclone Fani, which stood at eight on Friday, mounted to 16 on Saturday with four deaths in Mayurbhanj district, three each in Puri, Bhubaneswar and Jajpur; and one each in Keonjhar, Nayagarh and Kendrapara, PTI quoted officials as saying.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, briefed the media after the storm ebbed on Saturday and said, "A record of 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours, 3.2 lakh from Ganjam, 1.3 lakh from Puri and almost 7,000 kitchens catering to 9,000 shelters were made functional overnight. This mammoth exercise involved more than 45,000 volunteers."

 Cyclone Fani: Toll rises to 16 in Odisha as storm weakens, Naveen Patnaik says over 45,000 volunteers involved in relief ops

Toll due to Cyclone Fani in Odisha rises to 16. Reuters

In West Bengal, a total of 52,297 people were evacuated from 131 gram panchayats and put up in 723 rescue shelters. However, some people returned to their homes as the situation improved on Saturday. At least 771 houses have been fully or partly damaged.

Disruptions in traffic were reported in Garb2, Kharagpur 1, Keshiary and Mohanpur blocks due to broken trees. Power supply has also been restored by WBSEDCL

The cyclone left a trail of destruction to life and property after it made landfall in Odisha's Puri on Friday morning, with several structures collapsing in the district's temple town. The cyclone then moved into West Bengal via Kharagpur in the wee hours of Saturday. The effects of the cyclone were also felt in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

On Saturday, Kolkata airport resumed operations, however, dozens of people were stranded at Howrah station in the city as most trains under the jurisdiction of the East Coast Railway remained cancelled. National carrier Air India offered to deliver relief material to affected areas free of cost. The airline resumed operations at Kolkata airport around 9.30 am on Saturday.

The airport in Odisha's capital, Bhubaneshwar, is likely to resume operations on Saturday. The equipment at the airport was significantly damaged on Friday but flight operations are expected to begin by 1 pm, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement.

"The passenger terminal building at Bhubaneswar has been considerably damaged, particularly at the rooftop and facades... Based on the feedback and action taken, it was decided that Bhubaneswar will resume commercial flight operations with effect from 1300 IST on May 4, 2019," the statement said.

However, as state governments and the Centre took stock of the damage in the wake of the storm, reports said that even though Digha was expected to face a major impact of the cyclone, the situation seemed calm on Saturday morning despite heavy rainfall on Friday night.

The IMD in Alipore was quoted as saying that there was no more threat from Cyclone Fani for West Bengal, as it has headed towards Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the governors of West Bengal and Odisha on Saturday to take stock of the situations and said that he will visit Odisha on Monday, 6 May. Monday also happens to be the election day for the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha election. He also said that he had spoken to Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, and "assured continued support" from the Centre.

During his conversation with West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, the prime minister reiterated the Centre's readiness to provide all help needed to cope with the extremely severe cyclonic storm. "Also conveyed my solidarity with the people of Bengal in the wake of Cyclone Fani," Modi said in a tweet.

Several districts of West Bengal, including East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Pargana, besides Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans were expected to be hit by the storm that then moved towards Bangladesh and is likely to taper off.

Modi also extended the Centre's support to Odisha governor Ganesh Lal and said that the people of the state had shown "exemplary courage" in the face of the "natural disaster".

The United Nations agency for disaster reduction on Saturday commended the IMD's "almost pinpoint accuracy" of early warnings that helped authorities conduct a well-targeted evacuation plan and minimise the loss of life.

UN agencies are monitoring Fani's movements closely and taking measures to protect families living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, which is on alert.

The National Students' Union of India (NSUI) Goa President, Ahraz Mulla has written a letter to the President, Prime Minister and Union HRD Ministry requesting them to postpone NEET exam, in view of difficulties faced by students due to cyclone 'Fani' in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

"NEET exam for medical entrance needs a lot of concentration and dedication with the preparation of at least 2 years. The cyclone FANI that has reached the coastal belt of East India has created destruction, with no power supply and other unavailability of other basic needs," the letter reads.

"The students have dedicated 2 years to clear this test, but due to the cyclone it would not be right to conduct this test for the entire country considering the fact that it is an All India Exam with admission based on merit," the letter further stated.

On Friday, the cyclone lashed the coast with maximum wind speeds of up to 175 kilometres per hour, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding, with 28 million people living along the route of the massive storm. The storm was initially categorised as an "extremely severe cyclonic storm" by the IMD.

Effects of Cyclone Fani were felt as far as the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal with tents blown away at Camp 2 at 6,400 metres and Nepali authorities cautioning helicopters against flying. The Nepali government issued a warning that heavy snowfall was expected in the higher mountain areas with rain and storms lower down, and asked trekking agencies to take tourists to safety.

Hundreds of climbers, their guides, cooks, and porters huddled at the Everest base camp, according to Pemba Sherpa of Xtreme Climbers Trek, who said weather and visibility were poor. May is the best month to climb the 8,850-foot Everest when Nepal experiences a few windows of good weather to scale the peak.

“It is still the beginning of the month, so there is no reason for climbers to worry” that weather from the cyclone will cost them their chance to reach the summit, Sherpa said.

With inputs from agencies and 101 Reporters

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Updated Date: May 05, 2019 13:00:41 IST