19 districts of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal, besides Kolkata are likely to be affected by 'extremely severe' cyclonic storm ‘Fani’, which is approaching India's eastern coast. The cyclone would make the most impact in Odisha. Keeping this in mind, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has taken a series of pre-emptive measures and the state government is planning to evacuate about eight lakh people.
"I appeal to everyone that the children, women, old and disabled be evacuated first. All precautions have been taken to face the cyclone. We are fully prepared to tackle the cyclone Fani," said Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Fani is expected to touch Odisha coast south of Puri on the afternoon of May 3 with wind speeds ranging up to 180 kmph causing heavy rainfall in the coastal districts of the state.
The storm over the Bay of Bengal that lay centred about 660 km south-southwest of Puri is now ominously rolling towards the Odisha coast at a speed of 14 km per hour.
The cyclone is likely to impact coastal districts including Ganjam, Gajapati, Khordha, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore, the IMD said.
It also warned of a storm surge of about 1.5-meter height which may inundate low-lying coastal areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, and Jagatsinghpur districts at the time of landfall.
India Navy, Indian Air Force, and Coast Guard have been put on high alert to meet any eventuality due to the cyclone.
Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service have been deployed in vulnerable areas in the districts likely to be affected by the cyclone.
The state government has assigned 12 IAS and 11 IPS officers to supervise the relief, rehabilitation and restoration work in the affected districts.
Arrangements have already been made for free kitchen, safe drinking water, lighting, health and sanitation facilities at the shelters, he added.
In all, 879 multipurpose cyclone/ flood shelters are kept in readiness for sheltering people to be evacuated.
The ICG said Wednesday that its "ships have been kept on standby for mobilisation of disaster relief material" in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Odisha and West Bengal.
"Four Dornier sorties are being launched every day on an average for alerting fishing boats from Chennai, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata," it said, adding "special community interactions" were conducted at 12 places such as Tuticorin, Pamban, Villupuram, Chennai and Haldia.
The ICG has kept total 20 Disaster Response Teams on standby at six places -- four each in Vizag, Chennai, Paradip and Haldia and two each in Gopalpur and Frazergunj.
"Teams (are) ready for mobilisation at short notice with lifesaving equipment," the Coast Guard said.
Meanwhile, Railways has cancelled 103 trains in view of cyclone ‘Fani’. The railways said that it will grant full refund to passengers for the cancelled or diverted trains if the tickets are produced for cancellation within three days from scheduled date of journey.
Some of the trains which have been cancelled include Howrah-Chennai Central Coromandal Express, Patna-Eranakulam Express, New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, Howrah-Hyderabad East Coast Express, Bhubaneswar-Rameswaram Express.
The national transporter has also issued directions to the Divisional Railway Managers of all zones that frequent announcements are to be made at important stations for sensitising passengers about the cancellations, short termination and diversion of coaching trains in both directions of the Bhadrak (Odisha)-Visakhapatnam section.
"The full refund shall be granted to the passengers for the cancelled/diverted trains if the tickets are produced for cancellation within three days from scheduled departure of trains. Dry Food items, janata khana and water bottles in sufficient quantity are to be made available at catering stalls of all major stations. Due to dislocation of train services, the situation may warrant transhipment of passengers. Local transporters are to be contracted for hiring of road vehicles for meeting exigencies as and where necessary," the instructions to DRMs stated.
The railways has also said that sufficient amount of cash must be available at major stations for granting refunds to passengers and meeting other exigencies. Frontline staff are to be advised to be extremely polite while dealing with passengers and leaving no scope for complaint, it said.
"Emergency control is to operated round the clock with helpline number for guiding passengers. No staff are to be allowed to go on leave for next three days," it said.