It is expected to cross coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip by Saturday

The authorities in 23 cyclone-prone districts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are bracing themselves to tackle any exigency as a cyclonic storm intensified in the Bay of Bengal on Thursday and is expected to cross the coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip (close to Gopalpur) by Saturday evening.

The ‘very severe cyclonic storm,’ as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) described it, lay centred about 650 km southeast of Paradip on Thursday evening and would continue to move northwestwards and cross the coast with a wind speed of 175-185 kmph.

A wind speed of 160 kmph was experienced during the ‘Laila’ cyclone a few years ago.

The Met office here has recommended the total suspension of fishing operations, evacuation from the coastal areas and judicious regulation of rail and road traffic from Friday when the cyclone would be at a distance of 500 km from the coast.

It also warned of extensive damage to kutcha houses, agricultural crops, partial disruption of power, communication lines, rail and road traffic and advised fishermen out at sea to return and others not to venture into sea.

The IMD also cautioned against potential threat from flying debris and flooding of escape routes. It warned that the storm, surging with height of around 1.5-2 metres above the astronomical tide, would inundate the low-lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh during landfall.

Chief Ministers of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, Naveen Patnaik and Kiran Kumar Reddy took stock of the situation in Bhubhaneswar and Hyderabad and directed officials to take all precautionary measures to protect life and property. Mr. Patnaik wanted Air Force and naval units to be placed on alert for relief and rescue operations in the 14 cyclone-prone coastal districts of the State.

“Our past experience indicates that despite preparedness by the State government, the impact of a very severe cyclonic storm requires support of the defence forces to mitigate the effects of the extreme weather event,” Mr. Patnaik wrote in a letter to Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

Several units of the National Disaster Rapid Action Force (NDRAF) are being positioned in vulnerable places in both States.

Round-the-clock control rooms are being established in the coastal districts and satellite phones, ham radio sets and rescue boats pressed into service.

The Andhra Pradesh government too alerted the Army here and the naval authorities in Visakhapatnam to be ready for any help and wrote to the Defence Secretary for deployment of Air Force helicopters if necessary.

Coastal areas in both States have been experiencing heavy rain even as people in low-lying areas have been asked to be prepared to shift to safer places.