Over 6-lakh people evacuated from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, says Shinde

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday took the lead in reviewing the Centre’s preparedness for cyclone ‘Phailin’ and asked authorities concerned to pool in their resources to help Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in dealing with the aftermath of the cyclone even as over 6-lakh people were moved to safer places in an evacuation operation, which could be one of the largest in India.

Soon after his return from Brunei, where he attended the 11th ASEAN-India summit, and Indonesia, Dr. Singh was briefed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, who has been constantly monitoring the situation and interacting with State governments. The Prime Minister, who was apprised with all the preparations that been made for the cyclone, assured all help and support to the States in dealing with the natural disaster.

Choppers ready

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said 11 helicopters, 12 aircrafts and two warships of the armed forces have been kept ready to carry out rescue and relief operations in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. If needed, more choppers and aircrafts would be deployed.

“Three districts of Andhra Pradesh and 8 districts in Odisha would be the most affected… Already, 5.5 lakh people in Odisha and 1 lakh people in Andhra Pradesh have been evacuated to safer places, mostly in 500 cyclone shelters that are well-stocked with food and other essential items,” he said.

Apart from 2,000 personnel from the Army, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed 2,300 personnel in the three States – 29 teams in Odisha, 19 teams in Andhra Pradesh and 7 teams in West Bengal. “All Central Ministries were working in close tandem and offering all help to the State governments, while the Union Home Secretary is in regular touch with State Chief Secretaries and monitoring the situation,” Mr. Shinde added.

Earlier in the day, the Cabinet Secretary met senior officials from the Ministries of Home, Defence, Petroleum, Telecom, Health, Food, Railways, Drinking Water and Sanitation and reviewed the preparedness.

The team will now meet daily to ensure “proper coordination” in relief operations. While the Telecom, Petroleum and Power Ministry officials have been told to immediately begin their operations in case of any breakdown in fuel supply, telecom or electricity network, the Railways has deployed 12 diesel locomotives to ensure movement of trains in emergency. The Railways has also cancelled 56 trains and also short-terminated and diverted several trains in view of the cyclone.

The Army is also closely coordinating with government agencies to ensure uninterrupted supply of relief material, while it has successfully integrated medical, engineer and communication teams in army relief columns for all necessary assistance.