Bhubaneswar: In a massive evacuation exercise aimed at evading the possible harms from the “extremely severe” cyclonic storm Fani that is approaching India’s southeastern coast, the Odisha government shifted more than 3.3 lakh people away from low-lying areas close to the sea on Thursday.
People living in vulnerable areas along the coast were put in buses and smaller four-wheelers and then in trains and brought to cyclone shelters specially prepared for them. Cyclone Fani is expected to make the landfall near the temple town of Puri on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Odisha between 8 AM and 10 AM on Friday (May 5), according to the latest forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD), and it will continue till 12 noon. Wind speed during the storm's passage through the state will be in the range of 170-180 kmph, said an IMD bulletin.
On Thursday afternoon, ‘Fani’ was seen centred over the west-central parts of the Bay of Bengal about 320 km south-southwest of Puri and 170 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, according to the latest IMD bulletin.
The Odisha government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has been coordinating exhaustive planning process for rescue and relief operations that involve National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), Indian Army, the Navy and Indian Air Force along with the Coast Guard.
The state government plans to evacuate as many as 11.54 lakh people from thickly populated areas in 15 districts, nine of them having been identified as the most vulnerable. While the government said that 3,31,794 people had been evacuated and put up in shelter homes in the 11 districts by Thursday noon, officials said the number of people evacuated would touch 8 lakh by the evening.
District Emergency Operation Centres (DEOC) and control rooms of all other offices have been activated and are functioning round the clock in the state to ensure seamless communication and coordination in rescue and relief operations. As many as 300 power boats of the Special Relief Organisation are kept ready with crew for relief operation. The government has kept ready 879 multipurpose cyclone/flood shelters for people being evacuated.
All inward and outward flights of airlines operating from Odisha capital Bhubaneswar have been cancelled for May 3. Airports Authority of India (AAI) has instructed the airports in the coastal states to impose Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) immediately and monitor the situation at the highest level.
As many as 103 trains have been cancelled in Odisha in view of Cyclone Fani’s landfall in the state on May 3, according to East Coast Railways (ECoR), which operates in the state. As many as 43 trains connected to south India have also been cancelled or delayed. Trains running between Howrah in West Bengal and Puri in Odisha and other South India destinations have also been halted.