Incessant rain drenched parts of coastal Odisha as the extremely severe Cyclone Fani remained on course to hit the state near Puri between 8 and 10 am on Friday.
It was a race against time for the state government and the disaster mitigation agencies NDRF, ODRF, Fire services as Fani gathered speed in the Bay causing a constant revision of timeline in evacuation and other operations.
Initially, the forecast was landfall will take place near Puri at around 5.30 pm. This was revised to between 10 and 12 noon and the latest was advanced by another two hours – 8 and 10 am.
Odisha government, which has set global standards in disaster response and mitigation, targeted to evacuate 11.50 lakh people from low lying areas along 11 coastal districts by Thursday evening. But, with Fani gathering speed of 12 km per hour in the sea, the administration was racing against time and at the time of reporting, 6 lakh people have been moved to safer places and cyclone shelters.
Wind speed reach 200 km per hour is the forecast. In state capital Bhubaneswar, the speed would be 115 km per hour.
Besides, the gale and gusty cyclonic wind, the sea surge with high tidal waves expected to be five to seven mts in Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts is likely to inundate low lying areas.
Whipped by cyclonic winds, the sea waters could sweep up to six km inland affecting habitation in two coastal districts of Puri and Jagatsinghpur.
Reservoir levels are low and there is no fear of floods, but rainwater and sea water evacuation will be required, said official sources.
Relief and rescue operations are in full operational mode.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the preparedness levels and appealed to people to maintain calm, remain indoors and safe. Each life is precious, he said, while insisting that the government is fully prepared to face the cyclone.
Control rooms, helpline numbers, 12 senior IAS and 11 IPS officers are deputed to the coastal districts and stockpiling of ration at cyclone shelters had been done.
Fani would be similar to Phailin of 2013, observed officials while noting that power supply could be the worst casualty.
The storm had moved in a north-northeasterly direction at a speed of 16 km per hour and was expected to continue its movement in the same direction before crossing the Odisha coast.
The wind speed was likely to be around 170 to 180 km per hour, gusting to 200 km per hour at the point of landfall, said Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi.
It will have more impact of wind force and will be accompanied by heavy rainfall and storm surge height varying from five to seven mts in Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts.
The districts to be affected the most include Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khurda, Bhadrak and Balasore besides the northern part of Ganjam. The other districts likely to be impacted to a lesser extent are Cuttack, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal.
Some places in the coastal districts could experience extremely heavy precipitation of more than 300 mm during the passage of the cyclone.
The eye of the cyclonic storm, estimated to be 24 km, was very wide.
Fani will weaken gradually and enter into West Bengal as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with a wind speed of 90-100 km per hour gusting to 115 km per hour.
It is very likely to move further north-northeastwards and emerge into Bangladesh on the evening of 4 May as a Cyclonic Storm with wind speed 60-70 km per hour gusting to 80 km per hour.
Extensive damage to all types of Kutcha houses; some damage to old, badly managed pucca structures; potential threat from flying objects; extensive uprooting of communication and power poles; disruption of rail/road link at several places; extensive damage to standing crops, plantation, orchards etc. is apprehended.
Armed Forces have been mobilized by the Government of India for rescue and air dropping of relief materials in the cyclone-affected areas.
Flights from the Biju Patnaik Airport here have been suspended for Friday while train services along Bhubaneswar-Howrah and Bhubaneswar- Vizag have been cancelled.