Kolkata: Cyclone ‘Bulbul’ made landfall at West Bengal’s Sagar island around 8 pm on Saturday and is expected to move northeastwards into neighbouring Bangladesh, hovering over the Sunderbans delta.
After making landfall, the cyclone was downgraded from a very severe cyclonic storm to a severe cyclonic storm. It is expected to stay in that category for only a few hours after which its windspeed will drop considerably.
The Kolkata unit of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the cyclone’s landfall process has started — while it has begun entering the landmass, the entire process will take three hours to complete before the eye of the storm lies over the land.
South 24-Parganas district of Bengal is likely to be experience wind speed of 120-130 kmph.
IMD Kolkata Director GC Das said, “The landfall will be very severe. Currently, ‘Bulbul’ is 50 km away from Sagar Island and 150 km away from Kolkata. It is moving towards Sagar Island at a speed of 12-15 km per hour."
"It is advisable not to venture out of the house unless it is very urgent," he said. "In Kolkata, the wind speed will be around 60-70 kmph. Due to the cyclone, heavy rainfall is expected in Kolkata, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Howrah."
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, monitoring the situation, said the administration apprehends large-scale destruction to property. "But we will only be able to assess the destruction after daybreak tomorrow," she said. "The main impact of the storm is now over, we are bracing for the lesser impact. We are advising people not to venture out till the situation is stable."
Dipankar Roy, an expert on Sunderbans ecology, said, "We are actually concerned as ‘Bulbul’ may affect the world's largest mangrove wetland in the world in Sunderbans. Our team is there at Sagar island and we are constantly monitoring the situation."
Meanwhile, due to strong winds and rainfall triggered by the very severe cyclonic storm, one death has been reported from Bengal and Odisha each.
Continuous downpour since the early hours of Saturday left parts of Kolkata and its adjoining suburbs with waterlogged streets and overflowing drains. Trees were uprooted in various parts of the city killing one person in a renowned club, officials said.
In Odisha, one person died in a rain-related wall collapse incident in Kendrapara district and the matter is being enquired, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) PK Jena said.
Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy said the Odisha government is keeping a close watch on the situation and necessary action is being taken to deal with it.
Around 4,000 people have so far been evacuated from vulnerable and low-lying areas in some coastal regions in the state and shifted to 47 cyclone shelters, officials said.
In West Bengal, a special control room has been set up at the state secretariat where chief minister Mamata Banerjee will monitor the situation throughout the night. All rescue teams are on standby across the state.
The chief minister also urged people to not panic and requested them to co-operate with officials of rescue teams.
“Schools, colleges and anganwadi centres have been closed and more than 1 lakh, twenty thousand people have already been rescued from the vulnerable costal areas. Cyclone Bulbul is about to pass through Bengal. Our state administration is closely monitoring the situation 24x7. We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency. Special control rooms have been set up and NDRF-SDRF teams are deployed,” the TMC chief tweeted.
In Delhi, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's apex body to handle any emergency, reviewed the preparedness to deal with the cyclone over the Bay of Bengal in a meeting headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.
All the sections of Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railways are on alert to avoid any mishap.
The inclement weather has also forced the NSCB International Airport in Kolkata to cancel flight services from 6 pm on Saturday to 6 AM on Sunday.
A home ministry official in New Delhi said, "Due to very severe cyclone 'Bulbul', operations at Kolkata airport is being suspended from 1800 hours on November 9 up to 0600 hours on November 10.”
After hitting Sagar Island in Bengal, the very severe cyclone will pass through Bangladesh.
Personnel of the Indian Coast Guard are in all readiness to tackle any eventuality in the wake of the cyclone. Ships have been moved to safer locations at Paradip, Dhamra and Sagar Island coasts, Inspector General of Coast Guard, Rajan Bargotra, told PTI.
Fishermen have been advised to not venture into the rough seas of coastal Odisha and West Bengal in view of the cyclonic storm, said Bargotra, who is the Commander Coast Guard Region (North East).
Deputy Inspector General S R Dash, who is Commander of Coast Guard, West Bengal, said three disaster management teams have been stationed at Haldia and two at Fraserganj in 24 Parganas district for timely action. "We are trying to achieve zero casaulty," Dash told PTI.
Three ships at Visakhapatnam are on standby with relief material onboard for immediate deployment to the most affected areas, Defence sources said.
Additionally, 10 diving and medical teams are also kept ready for augmenting rescue and relief efforts in Odisha and West Bengal.
Naval aircraft are ready at the Naval Air station, INS Dega to undertake aerial survey of the most affected areas, casualty evacuation and airdrop of relief material as required by the state administration.
Naval Officers-in-Charge, West Bengal and Odisha are in constant liaison with respective state administrations for rendering assistance as required, they added.
On Sunday, heavy rainfall likely to persists due to ‘Bulbul’. Situation, may improve from Sunday evening.
A total 1.44 lakh people have been evacuated from the Sundarban area.
(With inputs from PTI)