The Odisha government on Saturday sounded the warning for the cyclonic storm christened ‘Gulab’, which is expected to cross the coast between its southern districts and north Andhra Pradesh at wind speeds of 75-85 kmph on Sunday evening.
Though the wind speed predicted for the cyclone may not prove too destructive, the associated heavy rain is likely cause landslides and a flood situation in some of the southern districts.
Director General of India Meteorological Department (IMD) Mrutyunjay Mohapatra informed the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba that the cyclone would mostly likely affect Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Vishakhapatnam districts in Andhra Pradesh, and Ganjam and Gajapati districts in Odisha.
Emphasising the need for all preventive and precautionary measures to combat the natural disaster, Mr. Gauba instructed the two State governments to make efforts keep the loss of lives to near zero, and minimise damage to property and infrastructure.
“The deep depression over northwest and adjoining westcentral Bay of Bengal moved nearly westwards with a speed of seven kmph in last 6 hours, intensified into Cyclonic Storm ‘Gulab’ (pronounced as Gul-Aab) and lay centered over northwest and adjoining westcentral Bay of Bengal, about 370 km east-southeast of Gopalpur (Odisha) and 440 km east of Kalingapatnam (Andhra Pradesh),” said an IMD Bulletin.
“The system is likely to move nearly westwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh - south Odisha coasts between Kalingapatnam and Gopalpur around evening of September 26 (Sunday),” it said.
Earlier, Odisha Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Jena video conferenced with Collectors of seven districts and instructed them to immediately start preparation for evacuation, keeping threats such as cyclonic winds, water logging, flooding and landslides in mind.
As many as 42 Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force teams, 24 National Disaster Response Force teams and about 100 fire service teams have been instructed to move immediately towards the southern districts, Mr. Jena said.
While the Ganjam district administration has formed block level teams comprising officials from different departments, the Gajapati administration has cancelled the leave of all officers for two days (September 26 and 27).
In 2018, Cyclone Titli, which had hit the same region of Odisha, left many people dead in the subsequent heavy flooding and landslides. This time, seven districts — Ganjam, Gajapati, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Kandhamal — have been asked to stay alert.
The Odisha government is also keeping a close watch on the flood situation in rivers such as Rushikulya, Vansadhara and Nagabaali flowing in the southern districts.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with extremely heavy rain at one or two places is very likely to occur over Odisha’s Kandhamal, Ganjam, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Gajapati districts, and north coastal Andhra Pradesh covering Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, East and West Godavari districts, on Sunday. The system will also bring rain over Telangana, north and interior Odisha and in Chhattisgarh.
Vijay Amruta Kulange, Ganjam District Collector (DC) said, “Preparations are in full swing to shift vulnerable sections of the population. We are also preparing to evacuate people from hilly areas. People should avoid low-lying areas and hilly regions.” People have been prohibited from visiting tourist areas.
Visakhapatnam DC A. Mallikarjuna convened an emergency meeting to take stock. Speaking to The Hindu , a senior officer from Andhra Pradesh Eastern Power Distribution Company Limited said that all personnel had been on alert and men, material and equipment had been moved to strategic locations to handle the situation.
The IMD has forecast rough sea conditions and cautioned fishermen not to venture into the sea till Monday. Distant Cautionary Signal Number I has been hoisted at the Gangavaram, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Machilipatnam, Nizampatnam and Krishnapatnam ports.
Gulab is the second cyclonic storm to form over the Bay of Bengal and make landfall over the Andhra-Odisha coast this year. Very severe cyclonic storm Yaas made its landfall near Balasore in Odisha on May 26.
( Inputs from Sumit Bhattacharjee in Visakhapatnam )