Cyclone Fani is expected to hit the coast of Odisha on Friday. Defence forces have been kept on high alert, educational institutions ordered shut and over 8 lakh people are being evacuated from low-lying areas of the state as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired high-level meeting to review preparedness for the cyclone. He was briefed on the likely path of the cyclone, and the ongoing precautionary and preparatory measures being undertaken.
These include provision of adequate resources; deployment of teams from NDRF and the armed forces; arrangements to provide drinking water; and standby systems to restore power and telecom services.
After reviewing the emerging situation, the prime minister instructed senior officers “to maintain close coordination with officers of affected states, to ensure preventive measures, and also to take effective steps for relief and rescue operations, as required.”
The meeting was attended by the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the PM, the Additional Principal Secretary to the PM, the Home Secretary, and other senior officials from the IMD, NDRF, NDMA and PMO.
According to Sangram Mohapatra, Spokesperson, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority, the cyclone, which was expected to make landfall at around 5 pm, is now expected to hit the coastal areas between 12 noon and 2 pm on Friday.
According to the latest forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JWTC) releasd on Wednesday, Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and devastated large parts of Odisha, is expected to cross the holy town of Jagannath Puri May 3 afternoon, packing winds up to 175 KMPH before the landfall.
The storm over the Bay of Bengal that lay centred about 610 KM south-south west of Puri was now ominously rolling towards the Odisha coast at a speed of 6 KM per hour, India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a fresh bulletin.
Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service have been deployed in vulnerable areas to assist the administration, an official said.
Over 4,000 specialised personnel as part of 81 NDRF teams have been deployed to deal with the 'extremely severe' cyclone.
Twenty-eight fully equipped teams have been deployed in and around Puri in Odisha as the cyclonic storm is expected to make a landfall there Friday noon, the NDRF Director General (DG) said.
Similarly, 12 teams have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh and six in West Bengal. The rest of the teams, that comprise about 50 personnel each, have been kept on standby in these states.
The Railways on Thursday said around 89 trains have been cancelled in the last two days in view of the ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm, which is likely to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, while three special trains have been put into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas.
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 New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, New Delhi-Puri Nandan Kanan Express, Puri-New Delhi Purushottam Express and the New Delhi-Puri Purushottam Express which had to begin their journeys Thursday have been cancelled.
Meanwhile, all flights to and from Bhubaneswar Airport have been cancelled for May 3. Kolkata airport will remain closed from 9:30 pm tomorrow till 6 pm on May 4.
Torrential rains are likely in Ganjam, Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Jagatsinghpur districts with winds blasting at speeds ranging from 175 to 200 KM an hour.
Leave of all doctors and health service officials have been cancelled till May 15, the state's chief secretary A P Padhi said.
State police chief R P Sharma said leave of all police personnel have also been cancelled and those on leave have been asked to immediately report for duty.
IAS officers have been put in charge of relief, rescue and restoration operations in vulnerable districts.
Sharma said Superintendents of Police have been asked to constantly monitor the situation and reach relief to stricken people.
The 880 cyclone shelters in coastal and southern districts have been kept ready to accomodate the evacuees, Sethi said, adding that in districts like Gajapati and Rayagada, where such facilities do not exist, they will be housed in schools and anganwadi centres.
The Election Commission has, meanwhile, relaxed the provisions of the model code of conduct in 11 coastal districts to facilitate relief and rescue operations, state's chief electoral officer Surendra Kumar said.
These districts--Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Gajapati, Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack and Jajpur--are likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone, which is also likely to impact Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had on Tuesday urged the Election Commission to withdraw the model code from all coastal districts to help the state government handle the situation in the aftermath of storm.