With a cyclone brewing over the Bay of Bengal, the Odisha government on Friday put 12 of its districts on high alert and advised them to review temporary medical centres set up for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The well-marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal is likely to concentrate into a depression over the same region during the next 12 hours and further intensify into a cyclonic storm over central parts of south Bay of Bengal by the evening of May 16, an India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin said.
It is very likely to move northwestwards initially till May 17 and then re-curve north-northeastwards towards north Bay of Bengal over May 18-20, the bulletin said.
Apprehending that the cyclone could hit Odisha, a high-level meeting headed by Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy was convened here to take stock of the situation.
‘Prepare for worst’
“The district administration is currently dealing with a COVID-19 situation. I would expect all officials to take it as a challenge and prepare for the worst. Our bar in cyclone preparation is acclaimed both nationally and internationally. Those who are tackling the health crisis are required to work for the mitigation of the cyclone threat,” said Mr. Tripathy.
The Chief Secretary ordered that “irrespective of what IMD predicts, we will have to prepare for the worst”.
Addressing a press conference, Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena said that as with the case of all other cyclones, the system is likely to re-curve toward a north-easterly direction, that is, the Indian coast. It is, however, not known where the landfall of the cyclone would take place, he said.
“Since we are currently facing the COVID-19 pandemic, some cyclone shelters have been converted into temporary medical centres (TMC). There should be a fresh assessment on TMCs situated within 3 km from the coast. We have asked District Collectors to look for alternate concrete structures such as schools and colleges. After the cyclone’s path becomes clear, they should be prepared for the evacuation of people,” said Mr. Jena.
District Collectors of four northern Odisha districts — Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara — were specifically asked to remain alert.
The government has held discussions with the State Police, the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, and the National Disaster Response Force authorities for facing the impending cyclone. All government staff on roster duty have been directed to join the workforce in wake of the cyclone threat.
Marine fishermen have been asked not to venture into sea from Friday. According to the IMD’s prediction, squally winds of speed reaching 55-65 kmph and gusting to 75 kmph are likely to prevail over the southeast and adjoining central southwest Bay of Bengal on May 16. Gale wind speeds reaching 75-85 kmph gusting to 95 kmph may prevail over east-central and adjoining west-central Bay of Bengal on May 17, and the wind speed could increase to 80-90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph May 18.