OVER 800,000 EVACUATED AS CYCLONE FANI SET TO HIT INDIA WINDS OF 205KM/HR & 200MM OF RAIN
Cyclone Fani, which has turned into an "extreme severe cyclonic" storm, is about 450 km from the Odisha coast, the India Meteorological Department or IMD said in an early morning tweet. It said that the cyclonic storm – also pronounced 'FONI' – is moving northwards with a speed of 5 kms per hour in last six hours and is likely to make landfall at Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali anytime after tomorrow afternoon, with wind speed of up to 205km per hour.
Nineteen districts of Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are likely to be hit by cyclone Fani. East Coast Railway cancelled 22 trains on Wednesday, taking the total to 103 trains.
IMD has issued a "Yellow Alert" warning for Odisha, West Bengal and three districts of Andhra Pradesh. In a special bulletin issued yesterday, the weather department has forewarned about possible destruction. Fishermen have been asked not to venture out for fishing from May 1 to May 5.
The state’s authorities said they hoped to have evacuated 800,000 people from the state’s coastal districts by Thursday morning.
Odisha has also moved in thousands of disaster management personnel to help those living in mud-and-thatch homes in low-lying areas take shelter from Fani.
“We are making best efforts to inform them about the cyclone and move these vulnerable people to cyclone shelters,” Bishnupada Sethi, the state’s special relief commissioner, said.
The neighbouring coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have also been put on high alert.
India’s national disaster management authority (NDMA) said sea conditions were “phenomenal” over the west-central Bay of Bengal area.
Authorities at ports in Paradip and Visakhapatnam ordered ships to move out to sea to avoid damage.
“Fishermen are advised not to venture into these areas,” NDMA warned on Twitter.
The office of the state’s special relief commissioner said local authorities had been told to identify “all vulnerable people... and shift them to multipurpose cyclone/flood shelters”.
“Arrangements have already been made for free kitchen, safe drinking water, lighting, health and sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Local media reports say there are more than 850 shelters in the state that can accommodate around one million people.
HR Biswas, director of the meteorological centre in state capital Bhubaneshwar, said at least 11 districts would be affected by severe rainfall.
“We have suggested people to stay indoors,” he told reporters.
The coastal town of Puri, 62 kms (40 miles) from Bhubaneshwar, has also been placed on high alert.
Puri is home to Shree Jagannath, one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, which receives millions of pilgrims each year.
The government also advised the pilgrims to leave the holy town, if possible, and to reschedule any non-essential travel in the region.
India’s weather department warned of “potential threat of flying objects ... Extensive uprooting of communication and power poles ...Disruption of rail, road”.
One local agency said that it had kept around 300 boats and crew on standby for rescue or relief work in the next 48 to 72 hours.
Odisha had to evacuate some 300,000 people last October when its coastal districts were battered by cyclone Titli, with winds up to 150 kms (95 miles) per hour and heavy rains. At least two people were killed in the cyclone.
Storms regularly hit eastern and south-eastern India between April and December. In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.
Odisha’s worst-ever cyclone, in 1999, killed over 8,000 people.
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