Bhubaneswar/Kolkata/Visakhapatnam: Two people were killed in Odisha after a severe tropical cyclone made landfall on the eastern coast of the country on Friday, with wind speed of up to 200 km per hour pounding the states coastal region, massively damaging property and disrupting flight operations, communication, rail and road connectivity.
The Cyclone Fani was set to cross several districts in Odisha before advancing to the neighbouring West Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was campaigning in Rajasthan’s Hindaun, near Jaipur, said the Centre stood with the people hit by the cyclone. “I want to assure the families affected by the cyclone that we are with them at this point of hour. We have collected fresh updates from the officials and had released a fund of Rs 1,000 crore for relief work on Thursday.”
In Odisha, about 10,000 villages and 52 Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) were likely to be affected by the cyclonic storm. The state has activated an emergency helpline number — +91674253417 — for Cyclone Fani.
The two deaths in Odisha were reportedly caused by falling trees, authorities said.
The airports in Odisha and West Bengal have been shut down, resulting in the cancellation of many flights. Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has directed his Ministry officials to continuously monitor the situation.
The Indian Railway has cancelled 223 trains in the Bhadrak-Vizianagaram section along the coastal lines of Odisha on the Kolkata-Chennai route till May 4, officials said.
The Assam government too has sounded an alert following a warning of the cyclone hitting the state and other parts of the northeastern region in the early hours of Saturday. The cyclone is also expected to affect the regular pattern of weather conditions in some parts of Nepal, weather officials said.
In Odisha, widespread damages to property have been reported as thousands of trees and electricity poles were uprooted under the impact of the cyclonic storm which made its landfall in Puri.
The trail of destruction could be seen in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri. There was no electricity in Bhubaneswar since the morning.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) unit in Bhubaneswar reported extensive damage hours after the cyclone made its landfall. The institute also cancelled a post graduate examination scheduled to be held on May 5.
As per reports, the tourists who were stuck in Puri were fleeced by the bus operators for a ride to a safer place after rail and air connectivity was snapped in the region.
The Army, Navy and Air Force were keeping a strict vigil on the developments in the coastal region. J.P. Sharma, a top official of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said, “The actual work will start once the storm passes over, leaving behind the destruction in its path.”
The cyclone started crossing into the Odisha coast close to Puri between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. The process of the landfall continued till 1 p.m, completely throwing normal life out of gear.
About a million people were evacuated to safer places in Odisha due to the cyclonic storm. The met department said that heavy rainfall will continue across the state.
Three Indian Navy warships — Sahyadri, Ranvir and Kadmatt — have been put on stand-by with relief materials and medical teams.
Other naval vessels were also kept on stand-by at Visakhapatnam from where teams of naval divers have been moved to Odisha.
Meanwhile, heavy rainfall lashed Kolkata and the Gangetic West Bengal after cyclone Fani made its landfall. The cyclone with a wind speed of 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph was expected to hit the state on Friday midnight or early Saturday.
The cyclone was located over 400 km southwest of Kolkata and over 350 km southwest of Digha, the sea resort in East Midnapore district.
“The outer ring cloud band has already reached the coastal areas of West Bengal and Kolkata, prompting rainfall. The rain intensity will be gradually increasing. As the cyclone comes closer to Bengal, it will have a speed of 80-100 kmph,” weatherman J.K. Mukhopadhyay said.
Six teams of NDRF have been deployed in Jhargram, West Medinipur, East Medinipur, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts.
The state government and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation have decided to shift people living in low lying areas to safer places. A toll-free helpline number, 1070, has been shared for assistance.
The cyclone also triggered heavy rains in parts of north coastal Andhra Pradesh, while gusty winds uprooted trees and electricity poles there, officials said.
Under its impact, gusty winds with speed reaching up to 140 kmph lashed the coastal area of Srikakulam district, where about 20,000 people have been shifted to 126 relief camps. Nine NDRF teams were deployed in the district.
The heavy rains could also cause Vamsadhara and Nagavali rivers to overflow, leading to floods in the region, officials warned.
Heavy downpour also lashed Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam, two other districts in the north coastal Andhra, since Thursday.
Many trains and flights to and from the state have been cancelled.