With the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani expected to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, south of Puri town, on Friday morning, the State government on Thursday evacuated over 11 lakh people from low-lying areas in 15 districts.
Heavy rainfall had started at many places in the coastal districts by Thursday evening under the influence of the storm. Fani is expected to make landfall between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and continue to rage up to noon, officials said. The cyclone will hit the coast with a maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph. Storm surge of about 1.5 metre height may flood low-lying areas.
After landfall on Friday, Fani is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken gradually and enter into West Bengal as a severe cyclonic storm with the wind speed of 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph.
According to Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi, while the evacuation exercise continued on Thursday, the administration made people in coastal areas aware of the risks, through loudspeakers, sirens and messages.
Flight operations from the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar will remain suspended from Thursday night for the next 24 hours. Educational institutions in the coastal districts were closed till further orders.
As many as 25 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) along with State fire service personnel have been deployed in the coastal districts. Defence forces were on high alert to meet any eventuality.
Around 10,000 villages spread over 14 districts such as Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj are likely to be affected.
The West Bengal government on Thursday advanced the summer holidays for State-run schools.
Fani’s impact is likely to be felt in Purba and Paschim Medinipur, North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata.
The Kolkata Port Trust said shipping to the port will remain suspended.