The cyclonic storm, Phailin, over east central Bay of Bengal has intensified further into a cylconic storm and lay centred 850 km southeast of Paradip and 950 km east-southeast of Visakhapatnam at 5.30 am on Thursday. The system is predicted to intensify into a severe cyclonic storm in the next 12 hours and will continue to move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip late on October 12 with a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 kmph.
The Odisha government on Thursday raised its warning level and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has written to the Centre asking for Air Force and Naval units to be placed on alert for rescue and relief operations. The distant storm warning signal number has been raised to two at the state’s Paradip and Gopalpur ports, an official of the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre said.
“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 said in his letter addressed to Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
The Chief Minister also held a meeting of the State Cabinet to take stock of the situation and finalise the strategy to tackle the situation. The State Government had also asked for deployment of the National Disaster Rapid Action Force (NDRAF) along with Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF).
Even as the Durga Puja celebrations across the State, particularly in the coastal belt of the State are underway, people have begun to stock up on essential commodities with the memories of the 1999 super-cyclone still fresh in their mind.
The coastal districts likely to be hit by the impending cyclone are Balasore, Bhadrak, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Ganjam and Gajapati.
The state government has made elaborate preparations to meet any eventualities, and directed collectors of 14 cyclone-prone districts to deploy relief and rescue officials at vulnerable points. People will also be evacuated from low-laying areas to safer places if the need is felt for such a measure.
“We have asked all the concerned officials to stay prepared and conduct mock drills of relief and rescue forces. We have asked them to keep adequate food items, boats and tree cutting equipment ready,” Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra said.
He said the state has about 50 satellite phones and officials were ensuring that they work properly in case there was disruption in telephone services.
Round-the-clock control rooms have been activated in the district headquarters towns, including in the highly cyclone-prone Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Ganjam, Puri and Kendrapada.
“We are fully prepared, and we have adequate boats and food items ready. Disaster forces have been kept on standby. We may evacuate people from low laying areas later, if such a step is necessary,” Satya Kumar Mullick, collector of Jagatsinghpur district, said.
A super cyclone had struck 14 coastal districts of the state Oct 29-31, 1999. Around 10,000 people were killed that year, as high velocity winds, blowing at nearly 300 km per hour, destroyed homes.