Almost all airlines cancelled their flights to Bhubaneswar and Visakhapatnam and the railways cancelled more than 180 trains to the coastal areas of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in view of cyclone Phailin struck parts of the country’s east coast on Saturday night.
After some morning flights by a couple of airlines to Bhubaneswar and Visakhapatnam, all flights to these two cities were cancelled because of bad weather that got worse as the day progressed.
Air India said its operations to and from these two cities would be resumed once the situation normalises but added that its Kolkata flights were operating according to schedule.
IndiGo, the largest domestic carrier, said it had cancelled flights from Bhubaneswar and was constantly monitoring the situation. “Due to adverse weather conditions, we have cancelled some flights to and from Bhubaneswar. We have operated two flights to Bhubaneswar in the morning -- one each from Delhi and Kolkata. Passengers are requested to pre-check their respective flight schedules to avoid any last-minute hassles,” IndiGo said in a statement.
The Jet Airways website said the Bhubaneswar-Bangalore flights were cancelled its Visakhapatnam flights to Mumbai and Chennai operated normally.
“We are keeping a watch on the situation,” an official belonging to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, India’s aviation regulator, said. “Airports have a standard operating procedure in place to deal with such situations and would act accordingly,” he added.
Cyclone Phailin is likely to deal a serious blow to freight transportation targets of the cash-strapped railways, which is also staring at the challenge of repairing and replacing tracks that would get damaged or washed away.
Bulk transportation of coal, iron ore, petroleum products and fertilisers is moved along the estimated 1,500km trunk routes on India’s eastern coast running through Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
“If tracks along the coast are breached, it will be a huge challenge to repair or replace the tracks speedily, as labour may be difficult to come by. This is likely to adversely impact the freight revenues,” said Indra Ghosh, former general manager of the East Coast Railways.
Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar was reluctant to hazard a guess on the financial impact of the disaster, saying that “the primary task was to prevent loss of human lives”.