New Delhi: With cyclone Fani set to make landfall in Odisha’s Puri around 9.30 am on Friday, the state administration moved 11 lakh people to safety and advised the public to remain indoors.
The storm is set to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. According to the latest bulletin by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone lay centred over west-central Bay of Bengal about 275 km south-southwest of Puri. Fani will likely hit Odisha with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph, which is expected to rise to 200 kmph.
On Thursday, the extremely severe cyclone triggered downpour and led to sqaulls in Odisha's coastal areas.
Chief Secretary AP Padhi said Fani is likely to hit the coast very close to Puri around 9.30 am and the entire process of landfall will take four to five hours.
After a review meeting on Thursday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik urged people to remain indoors during this period and said all arrangements have been made for their safety and security.
The Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have already been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire service have also been deployed in vulnerable areas.
The Navy has deployed three naval ships along the coast in order to launch rescue operations immediately after landfall.
"Indian naval ships Sahyadri, Ranvir and Kadmatt with relief material and medical teams have been deployed so that they can commence rescue operation as soon as the cyclone crosses the coast," Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said.
He said several aircraft have also been kept on standby for immediate deployment to carry out aerial survey as soon as the cyclone crosses the Odisha coast to assess its impact.
Padhi warned people that remaining indoor during the entire landfall period is a must. "There may be a lull before the storm, but it will be the most dangerous phase and people should be extremely careful and keep indoors," he said.
All shops, business establishments, private and government offices except those associated with relief and rescue operations will remain closed in 11 coastal districts as a precautionary measure. These are Gajapati, Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, Naygarh, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore.
Three more districts -- Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar -- may also face the brunt.
Over 11 lakh people in 10,000 villages and 52 urban local bodies were shifted to cyclone shelters and other safe houses on Thursday, officials said. "The evacuation process, carried out on a war footing, is almost complete," said an official.
Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens at cyclone shelters. Around 4,000 such shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres, are housing the evacuees.
Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping for which two choppers have been requisitioned, said Special Relief Commissioner BP Sethi.
According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, Fani is being billed as the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and left a trail of destruction across the state.
Sources in the IMD said Fani is also the first cyclonic storm of such severity to have formed in April in India's oceanic neighbourhood in 43 years.
Leaves of all doctors and health officials in the state have been cancelled till May 15, Padhi said. State police chief RP Sharma added that leaves of all police personnel have been cancelled as well.
Flights to and from the Bhubaneswar airport have been cancelled for Friday. In an advisory, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said no flights will depart or arrive at the Kolkata airport between 9.30 pm on Friday 3 and 6 pm on Saturday.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday requested airlines to offer assistance in rescue and relief operations. “The situation will be monitored at the highest level and airlines and all others are to be fully ready," he said.
As many as 223 trains along the Odisha coastline along the Kolkata-Chennai route have also been cancelled -- these include 140 mail and express trains and 83 passenger trains.
"All trains cancelled in Bhadrak-Vizianagaram section (along Odisha coastline) of Kolkata-Chennai route till May 4 afternoon in view of cyclone Fani," a railway spokesperson said.
The Railways has also pressed into service three special trains to ferry passengers.
After crossing Odisha, the cyclone is likely to move towards West Bengal before tapering off. It is, however, still likely to impact parts of the northeast, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.