Yaas intensifies, batters east coast ahead of landfall today
Yaas intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm” on Tuesday evening and hurtled towards India’s eastern coast as Odisha and West Bengal braced for landfall, and evacuated roughly 1.1 million people from low-lying areas and corralled them into storm shelters.
In Bengal, two people were electrocuted and around 80 houses were destroyed in a pre-cyclone storm as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the cyclone was likely to hit close to the Chandbali-Dhamra port in Odisha by noon on Wednesday.
“During landfall it will have a wind speed of 155 kmph-165 kmph, gusting to 185 kmph. The impact will be severe for six hours before and after the landfall at Chandbali. Big trees and electric poles may get uprooted. Chandbali is likely to witness the maximum damage due to the cyclone,” said IMD directort general Mrutyunjay Mohapatra.
He said authorities prioritised four districts in Odisha — Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore -- as likely bear the worst impact of Yaas.”Even after landfall, Yaas will maintain the intensity of a cyclone for about 12 to 18 hours before it degenerates,” said Mohapatra.
Odisha is anticipated to bear the maximum brunt of the second major cyclone to hit the country in nine days -- Cyclone Tauktae battered India’s western coast last week-- with some impact on West Bengal, primarily driven by surge and rainfall-induced floods in the coastal districts.
“Every life is precious, thus all possible steps should be taken to protect life,” Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik said. Very rough seas, stormy weather and gale winds are likely to affect shipping vessels and fishing operations.
Odisha’s special relief commissioner Pradip Jena said 210,621 people were shifted to cyclone shelters in 15 districts. “6,900 cyclone centres are ready for use where 7.50 lakh people can be accommodated,” he added.
Jena said 710 diesel generators, 813 tankers and 10,000 government employees were dispatched to the coastal districts. Another 2,000 workers are expected to reach their locations by Tuesday night. At least 4,000 rescue personnel have been deployed.
In Bengal, a freak storm in Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts left two people electrocuted and damaged 80 houses, said West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee .
“This was unexpected... The tornado wreaked havoc in Chinsurah, partly damaging 40 houses. Two persons were also electrocuted to death,” she told reporters. In North 24 Parganas district’s Halisahar, the storm lasted a little over a minute, impacting 40 houses and injuring five people, the CM said. The state evacuated roughly 900,000 people.
A major contingency plan was put in place to mitigate the impact of the cyclone on oil and gas installations. Odisha coast has two major ports at Dhamra and Paradip and an oil refinery at Paradip. West Bengal hosts a major port at Haldia.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) force earmarked its highest-ever number of teams, 113, for relief and rescue operations. Fifty-two teams were designated for Odisha, 45 for West Bengal, and the rest for Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an NDRF spokesperson said.
Each NDRF team has 47 personnel equipped with tree and pole cutters, communication gadgets, inflatable boats and basic medical aid. “All this has happened because as an extra measure of precaution and preparation as the central and state governments, on the basis of lessons learnt from earlier cyclones including the recent Tauktae, are very focussed on minimising damage to life and property and targeting zero casualty,” NDRF director general SN Pradhan said.
Jharkhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh prepared for the storm’s impact.
Jharkhand sounded high alert and evacuated people from East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and other districts bordering West Bengal and Odisha. Chief minister Hemant Soren reviewed preparedness and asked officials to deal with the situation on war- footing.
“The cyclone is likely to severely impact Kolhan division that comprises East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan. Bokaro and Khunti are also likely to be severely impacted...All those in thatched houses and huts in bordering areas with West Bengal and Odisha are being shifted to shelter homes,” secretary, disaster management department, Amitabh Kaushal said.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar held a review meeting and instructed officials to make all arrangements in advance. He directed officials to make alternative arrangements in hospitals, government as well as private, in the event of a power outage.
Andhra Pradesh chief secretary Adityanath Das visited Srikakulam district to review arrangements.
Independent experts warned that both the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal are exceptionally warm this year, making them favourable for development of powerful cyclones.
“Waves up to 11.5m detected by National Institute of Ocean Technology morning in north Bay of Bengal, about 400km away from the coast, as cyclone Yaas moves in. INCOIS-IMD joint forecast indicates waves of 3-7 m along the Odisha-West Bengal coasts in 24 hours,” tweeted Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, warning of a massive storm surge.
Experts said there was likely to be total destruction of thatched houses; extensive damage to mud houses; some damage to pucca houses; potential threat from flying objects; bending/ uprooting of power and communication poles; flooding of escape routes; disruption of railways, overhead power lines and signalling systems; widespread damage to standing crops, plantations, orchards, blowing down of mango trees; small boats may get detached from moorings and visibility may be severely affected.
Tidal waves of height 2-4 metres above astronomical tide are likely to inundate low lying low laying areas of Medinipur, Balasore, Bhadrak and about two meters above astronomical tide are likely to inundate low lying low laying areas of South 24 Parganas, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts around the time of landfall.
Winds at 80-90 kmph gusting to 100 kmph are expected over Puri, Cuttack, Khurda, Jajpur districts of Odisha and Jhargram, west Medinipur, North 24 Pargana districts of West Bengal.
(with inputs from agencies)