Trains cancelled, rescuers on standby as Odisha braces for Cyclone Fani
The India Meteorological Department has categorised Cyclone Fani as an extremely severe cyclonic storm and the strongest pre-monsoon cyclone in the last four decades.Updated: May 08, 2020, 15:50 IST
More than 40 trains have been cancelled between Howrah and Puri and other stations in south India over the next two days as Cyclone Fani, which has turned into an “extreme severe cyclonic” storm, approached Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
The India Meteorological Department has categorised Cyclone Fani as an extremely severe cyclonic storm and the strongest pre-monsoon cyclone in the last four decades. The met department said early on Thursday that Cyclone Fani is about 540km south-southwest of Puri.
It is moving northwards with a speed of 5kilometres per hour in the last six hours and likely to make landfall at Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali on May 3 with a wind speed of up to 200kmph, it said.
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The neighbouring coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have also been put on high alert.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s office said that around 800,000 people will be evacuated from the state’s coastal areas by Thursday morning.
“He (the chief minister) emphasised that special care should be taken to safely evacuate pregnant women, children, old and differently abled from vulnerable areas,” his office said Twitter.
“About 800,000 people will be evacuated and sheltered in cyclone centres, schools and other safer places,” the statement added.
The South Eastern Railway (SER) has cancelled 17 trains bound for south India and Puri in Odisha. It has also decided to cancel 26 trains originating from south India, a railways official said, according to news agency PTI. Trains from Bengaluru, Chennai and Secunderabad to Howrah on Thursday evening are among those which were cancelled.
Special patrolling is also being carried out to keep their passengers safe. Breakdown vans and relief trains have been kept ready to cater to areas likely to be affected by the cyclone in the two states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the official said.
SER is also in touch with the local authorities and disaster management teams.
The Eastern Railway announced the cancellation or delay of 81 trains on the Bhadrak-Bhubaneswar-Puri-Visakhapatnam section.
The Indian Navy tweeted that its ships Sahyadri, Ranvir and Kadmatt with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) stores including food, medicines and clothing will be following the cyclone keeping south of the eye of the storm and remain standby to be the first responder when it crosses the coast.
Odisha has shut all schools and colleges as emergency personnel races to make preparations for Cyclone Fani barrelling towards the state.
Officials in Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan zoo also decided to close the zoo from May 2 to May 4 and keep all the captive animals in feeding chambers.
The Election Commission gave its nod for shifting of the EVMs to safer locations in Odisha, where four-phased elections for the Lok Sabha and state assembly were completed on April 29.
Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has also requested the Election Commission for a relaxation of the model code of conduct in four districts which will be affected by Cyclone Fani.
The West Bengal government has made elaborate precautionary arrangements to tackle the situation, an official said. An alert has been sounded in all coastal districts and people living in the coastal areas along with tourists have been asked to leave and go to safer places, the official said.
Fishermen, who have gone to the mid-sea, have been asked to return immediately.
The strongest ever cyclone to hit Odisha came in October 1999 while the second biggest, Cyclone Phailin hit the coast in October 2013. Cyclone Titli that hit Andhra Pradesh coast in October last year, had killed 61 people, many of them in tribal-dominated Gajapati district and wreaked huge damage in Odisha as it changed its direction and moved towards the northeast after making landfall.