As the meteorological department today sounded a warning that the Cyclone Bulbul is to hit the state and the city by Saturday night, the state government, municipal bodies, the Coast Guard and other agencies concerned are making preparations on a war footing to minimise the damage that may be inflicted by the cyclone. According to the Met office, at present, the cyclone is located in the central part of Bay of Bengal with a speed of 17 km/h and is expected to hit the coast around midnight tonight. The coastal districts of East Midnapore, North and South-24 Parganas will receive intense rainfall, accompanied with winds blowing at a speed of about 110-120 km/h, which will gradually rise up to 135km/h from tomorrow midnight to forenoon of the following day. On the same time, districts like Howrah, Hooghly and West Midnapore will receive moderate showers with wind speed of 40- 60km/h which can rise up to 70km/h.

According to weather officials, the cyclone is on the verge of intensifying into a very severe cyclonic storm. Kolkata is most likely to receive light to moderate rainfall from tomorrow midnight with wind speed up to 120 km/h. However, it won’t be the same for the adjoining districts. A Met official said “Most places of South Bengal will receive light rainfall. Places like East Midnapore, North and South 24-Parganas will receive turbulent rainfall, more than 100 mm.” Meanwhile, apprehending the havoc, the cyclone Bulbul likely to wreak, the state government is taking no chances.

As a precautionary measure, the state secretariat has announced closure of all schools in the seven districts including Kolkata and Howrah tomorrow, which according to the Alipore meteorological office are likely to bear the brunt as heavy to very heavy rains accompanied with gusty winds are expected to lash those districts. Authorities of all the schools in seven districts including Kolkata and Howrah have been asked to announce closure of schools tomorrow.

A senior official at Nabanna said that the state administration was maintaining a round the clock surveillance through the control room which is working overtime and maintaining a close coordination with the meteorological department for the latest updates.

Precautionary measures including deployment of DMG (disaster management group) personnel have been made. The Met department has been told to keep the administration updated about Cyclone Bulbulto help facilitate evacuation process should the need arise,” said a senior officer at Nabanna today.

The mayor Firhad Hakim today said the Kolkata Municipal Corporation control room will be kept open 24 hours a day for the next three days while the leave of KMC staff have been cancelled. The civic body’s disaster management teams will be on stand-by.

Kolkata police too have mobilised to minimise the impact of the cyclone. River traffic police have been asked to maintain constant patrol on the river to avert any untoward incident.

Other than the five river traffic police vessels that Kolkata Police have, some additional boats have been pressed into service. Vessels operators in the Hooghly have been told to run ferry service as weather permits.

In addition, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) regional headquarters (North East) in Kolkata, which administers the Coast Guard units in West Bengal and Odisha, has initiated actions as per the standard operating procedure prior to the onset of the Cyclone Bulbul.

The ICG spokesperson said that efforts have been launched by the Coast Guard on the West Bengal and Odisha coasts in co-ordination with the states’ fisheries department to bring back the fishing boats out at sea to th nearest harbour for shelter. The ICG ships and aircraft on patrol have relayed information regarding the Cyclone Bulbul and advised all sea-going vessels, especially fishing boats and dinghies, to return to harbour for safety. It is learnt that red warnings are in place for North and South 24-Parganas. Fishermen along the coast of South 24-Parganas have been cautioned not to venture out as the sea condition will be rough.

Kolkata Port Trust: All precautionary measures are being taken at Kolkata Port Trust including Kolkata Dock System and Haldia Dock Complex. A control room will be opened from tomorrow morning. Pilot launches will be sent to Haldia for shelter. Shipping will remain suspended till weather improves. All vessels in the port and at Sandheads have been advised to take appropriate safety precautions. Port users have been advised for safe parking/lashing of equipment at berths and back up area. Ships at berth were advised to strength their mooring arrangements.

Farmers in jeopardy: Meanwhile, Hooghly district farmers said the standing paddy crop is ready for harvest, and fear that accumulation of excessive water in the paddy fields due to continuous rain will completely spoil the crops. The Arambagh subdivision agriculture officer Mr Sajal Ghosh said there are high chances of very heavy rainfall due to the approaching cyclone. This untimely rain will have its adverse effect on agriculture.