Lakhs of people were being evacuated to safer places and the military kept on standby on Friday as Cyclone Phailin is expected to hit the east coast with winds gusting up to 220 kmph on Saturday evening.
Cyclone Phailin — the biggest cyclone in years to hit Odisha — is expected to make landfall near Gopalpur in Ganjam district in the eastern State after crossing an area between Paradip in Odisha and Kalingapatnam in AP.
Five districts were in the eye of the storm with IMD Chief Dr LS Rathore identifying Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in Odisha and Srikakalum in AP as those that is likely to be worst hit.
Rathore said the cyclone storm over east central Bay of Bengal currently lay 450 km southeast of Gopalpur and warned that it will be accompanied by a storm surge of up to three metres in the districts that will bear the brunt.
“Cyclone Phailin is a very severe cyclone,” Rathore said in Delhi. Rathore said the storm, which will hit the coast at 6 pm, is unlikely to develop into a super cyclone. Phailin was named by Thailand and it means sapphire in Thai.
“The US Navy has also forecast that the wind speed will be above 240 kmph. Therefore, the cyclone is not less than any super cyclone for us,” Special Relief Commissioner PK Mohapatra told reporters in Bhubaneshwar.
Mohapatra said the IMD had declared the 1999 calamity as a super cyclone as the wind speed had crossed 220 kmph. An estimated 9,885 persons were killed in the super cyclone that pummelled Odisha.
“This time around, the wind speed is not much different than the previous super cyclone,” he said.
Squalls with a wind speed of 45-55 kmph to 65 kmph have already started along Odisha coast since morning under the impact of Phailin. About 25 cm of rain has been predicted in 24 hours in the affected districts due to the cyclone.
The Odisha health department cancelled holidays and leave of all doctors in view of the impending situation even as the State Government set a target of “zero casualty” and ordered speedy evacuation of people in seven coastal districts.
East Coast Railway planned to regulate and cancel about 24 passenger trains between Visakhapatnam and Bhadrak on the Howrah-Chennai Main Line route on Saturday.
Authorities began evacuating 64,000 people from the low-lying areas of three vulnerable districts in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha Revenue Minister N Raghuveera Reddy said.
Emergency food supplies and shelters for people expected to flee the heavy winds and rains were also being readied in the vulnerable districts. Disaster management teams were also kept in readiness.
Odisha Government set a target of “zero casualty” and ordered speedy evacuation of people in low-lying areas in seven coastal districts which is home to lakhs of people.
In Delhi, Defence Minister AK Antony ordered the Armed Forces to be ready to move in to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Two IAF IL-76 aircraft have already airlifted NDRF teams and equipment to Bhubaneshwar.
IAF assets have been kept on standby at various bases including at Raipur, Nagpur, Jagdalpur, Barrackpore, Ranchi and Gwalior.
It has also kept two C130J aircraft, 18 helicopters, 2 AN-32s aircraft on a standby to move at a short notice besides asking its Eastern Air Command to coordinate relief operation with the task force positioned at Barrackpore.
The Navy, Airforce, NDRF, ODRF were ready for relief and rescue operation as soon as the cyclone hits the coast, Mohapatra said in Bhubaneswar.
An anxious Odisha Government held meetings and evaluated the developing situation.
“At least 28 teams of the National Disaster Response Forces are at the disposal of the Odisha Government for evacuation and relief operations,” a senior official said after one such meeting.
So far eight teams of NDRF, reaching having 20 personnel, have been deployed in Puri district, the official said.
Revenue and Disaster Management Minister SN Patro said district collectors have been told to complete evacuation of people by this evening.
“We do not want to take any chance,” Patro said adding that shelters were ready.
“The Collectors of all seven districts like Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Nayagarh and Khurda have been directed to start evacuation and ensure 100 per cent evacuation of people to cyclone and flood shelters and other safe places by today evening,” said Patro.
The Collectors of Bhadrak and Balasore districts have also been alerted, the Minister said.
Appealing to the people not to panic, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked them to cooperate with the Government in relief and rescue operations.
The IMD forecast a storm surge of 2.5 to 3 metres in Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Srikakulam districts.
A storm surge is a rise of the sea as a result of atmospheric pressure changes and winds associated with a storm.
Gales with a speed of 205-215 kmph are expected when the cyclone crosses the coast, according to AP Revenue Minister N Raghuveera Reddy.
“Sometimes the gale speed may even touch 235 kmph while heavy to very heavy rainfall of up to 25 cm is also likely under the impact,” he told reporters in Hyderabad.
The Minister said he spoke to Collectors of coastal districts and put them on high alert.
Army, Navy and National Disaster Response Force personnel have already been positioned in vulnerable coastal districts while IGP (north-coastal zone) Ch Dwaraka Tirumala Rao has been asked to coordinate with other departments to ensure effective communications in case of emergency.
“In 1996, we had a super cyclone and Phailin is expected to be of the same intensity,” Reddy said.
With countdown beginning for the ‘super cyclone-like’ calamity to hit Odisha coast, the State Government has set up control rooms to make available information, official sources said.
One satellite-based measure of Phailin’s strength estimated the storm’s central pressure at 910.7 millibars, with sustained winds of 175 mph (280 kph). If those numbers were verified by official forecast agencies, they would place Phailin on par with 2005′s Hurricane Katrina, and break the record for the most intense cyclone in Indian Ocean recorded history.
In fact, meteorologists can’t precisely determine Phailin’s current strength because there are no ‘hurricane hunter’ aircraft taking direct measurements of storms in the Indian Ocean basin. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), a Hawaii-based forecasting outpost of the US Navy, says Phailin is undergoing “extreme rapid intensification.”
While strengthening, the storm has grown to nearly half the size of India itself.
(With inputs from from agencies)
8:21 pm: A meteorologist warned on Friday that the Odisha Cyclone could be worse than Hurricane Katrina which devastated parts of the United States in 2005- TOI.
7:35 pm: Two important tourist destinations of Gopalpur and Puri in Odisha on Friday saw visitors leaving in droves because of fear of Cyclone Phailin striking on Saturday.
7:03 pm: The very severe storm Phailin is unlikely to turn into a "super cyclone" like the one which hit the coastal areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in 1999, the MET department on Friday said.
IMD Director General LS Rathore- Although Phailin is on the border of being termed a super cyclone and has good resemblance of the 1999 storm, we have come to an understanding that it will not turn into a super cyclone. The storm will be around 210-220 kmph, but it is unlikely to intensify any further.
6:25 pm: According to reports, 12 Indian Air Force aircraft are scheduled to arrive in Odisha on Saturday, said special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra.
4:59 pm: The Met department has suspended all fishing activities as cyclone Phailin is expected to make landfall in Odisha in less than 12 hours, packing speeds of upto 220 kmph, according to reports.
4:57 pm: Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra said the Odisha Government has also directed opening of free kitchens from this evening for the people who would be evacuated to safe shelters. "Dry food should be kept reserved for the next day," Mohapatra said adding that the teams for clearing of roads must be kept ready with all required equipment.
"They (road clearing team) must be visible on roads just after the cyclone passes away and they should clear the roads within 12 hours of cyclone," Mohapatra said in his directive.
4:56 pm: Patro directed the district authorities said relief teams to be ready with relief material and necessary means of transportation. "Fuel like diesel, kerosene, LPG should be kept reserved in the district and block locations," Patro said.
4:55 pm: In the wake of super cyclone of 1999 in which at least 9885 persons were killed, Odisha Government has expressed concern about the safety of the people. "Our first priority is zero casualty," said Revenue and Disaster Management Minister SN Patro.
4:51 pm: Odisha Government on Friday set a target of "zero casualty" and ordered speedy evacuation of people in seven coastal districts."The Collectors of all seven districts like Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Jagatsingpur, Kendrapara, Nayagarh and Khurda have been directed to start evacuation and ensure 100 per cent evacuation of people to cyclone and flood shelters and other safe places by Friday evening," said Revenue and Disaster Management Minister SN Patro.
4:49 pm: Squally winds speed reaching 45-55 kmph gusting to 65 kmph would prevail along and North Andhra Pradesh coast during next 12 hrs.It would increase in intensity with gale wind speed reaching 210-220 kmph along and off coastal districts of North Coastal Andhra Pradesh at the time of landfall.
4:13 pm: India's east coast braces for cyclone covering half the country, says Times Now report.Current wind speed is at 200-210 km/hr and expected to touch 220 km/hr.
4:05 pm: “Cyclone Phailin is likely to affect the coastal districts and some other interior places. The State Government has made all arrangements to face the situation,” Patnaik said in a message to the people.
4:05 pm: As Cyclone ‘Phailin’ embraces to take the shape of a super cyclone, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday asked people not to panic over the situation as the State Government was “fully” prepared to face any eventuality.
3:58 pm: The Washington Post has speculated that Cyclone Phailin could be as big as hurricane Katrina in US.
2:49 pm: The Odisha Special Relief Commissioner has said that the Phailin no less than a super cyclone.
2:42 pm: Special efforts have been made in Nandan Kanan zoo to ensure the safety of the animals there. Medicines and similar provisions have also been stocked.
2:41 pm: The threat of the Phailin has caused a sudden spike in both food and vegetable prices in Odisha. According to a report on Odisha TV, potato prices that were at 10 rupees per kg in the morning are now at Rs 30.
2:38 pm: Defence Minister A K Antony asks armed forces to be ready to move in to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in view of cyclone Phailin.
2:36 pm: National Disaster Response Force officials have reached Berhampur in Odisha and evacuation in coastal districts has also started. Khurda, Puri, and Jagatsinghpur are expected to be Odisha districts most affected by the coming cyclone.
2:30 pm: Defence Minister AK Antony on Friday asked the armed forces to be ready to move in to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in view of the impending severe cyclonic storm Phailin.
Two IAF IL-76 aircraft have already airlifted NDRF teams and equipment to Bhubneshwar.IAF assets have been kept on stand by at various bases including – Raipur, Nagpur, Jagdalpur, Barrackpore, Ranchi and Gwalior.
2:16 pm: Heavy to very heavy rains likely in most places of Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda districts of Odisha from tonight,according to Odisha TV report.
2:14 pm: At least 64,000 people residing in the north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh will be evacuated to cyclone shelters by Friday evening, according to reports.
1:48 pm: 43 NDRF teams deployed in AP & Odisha. Using trucks and buses, authorities evacuated 40,000 people from 40 villages to Government-run shelters, schools and buildings in five districts of Odisha, said Surya Narayan Patra, the State revenue and disaster management Minister.
Railway administration has made special arrangements to facilitate passengers during any unexpected situation, an official source said adding that emergency staff of various departments of ECoR have been advised to stay at the headquarters during puja holidays.
1:35 pm: In view of the impending cyclone in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh coast, the East Coast Railway has geared up its resources to cope with the calamity and ensure smooth running of trains.
1:27 pm: More than 40,000 villagers were evacuated from coastal areas along eastern seaboard and State officials reached out to the military for help as they prepared on Friday for a massive cyclone spinning in the Bay of Bengal, AP reported.
Defence Minister AK Antony asks armed forces to be ready to move in to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in view of cyclone Phailin.
1:18 pm: Rainfall in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha will increase from Friday night with strong winds of 200-220 kmph. The rains will extend to the internal areas of Odisha by Saturday night. Meanwhile, Odisha Government may forcefully evacuate people living in kutcha houses in areas like Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh that fall in the direct path of incoming cyclone Phailin, according to reports.
1:14 pm: Government is prepared, please don’t panic, says Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
12:55 pm: Met Department scientist Dr M Mohapatra said that Phailin had not yet been classified a super cyclone. "It is a very severe storm with higher intensity. Rainfall will commence over coastal Odisha and Northern Andhra Pradesh (Friday) late evening. The cyclone has reached the limit to upper level of very severe cyclone," he said.
12:26 pm: Andhra Pradesh Government is gearing up to deal with the impact of the cyclonic storm 'Phailin', which is expected to cause damage in coastal districts of the State.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy has reviewed the Government's preparedness to face the impact of the cyclone and directed officials to take all precautionary measures.
12:03 pm: IMD forecasted a storm surge of 1.5 meter to 2 meter in Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in the coast on Thursday, on Friday it said the storm surge height will be around 2 meter to 2.5 meter above astronomical tide. This would inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur in Odisha.
12:00 pm: "The very severe cyclonic storm, PHAILIN over east central Bay of Bengal moved west-northwestwards with a speed of 15 kmph and lay centred about 520km south-southeast of
Paradip, 530 from Gopalpur and 530km east-southeast of Kalingapatnam," the IMD said in its latest bulletin.
11:43 am: According to the latest bulletin of the IMD, the cyclonic storm over east central Bay of Bengal has slightly intensified further and lay centred about 590km south-southeast of Paradip. It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip by evening of 12th October as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 205-215 kmph.
11:33 am: The very severe cyclonic storm 'Phailin', expected to make landfall at Gopalpur in Odisha on Saturday.