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Cyclone Fani turns ‘extremely severe’; Odisha on yellow alert, schools shut from May 2

The Election Commission has approved the lifting of model code of conduct in 11 districts in Odisha to facilitate speedy relief and rescue operation in view of cyclonic storm Fani.

SNS | New Delhi |

Cyclone Fani which has intensified into an ‘extremely severe’ cyclonic storm will cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali by Friday afternoon with a maximum sustained wind of speed 175-185 kmph gusting to 205 kmph. The Met department has issued a “yellow warning” for the Odisha coast predicting heavy to very heavy rain in several areas.

In view of the oncoming cyclonic storm, Odisha government has declared holiday at schools and colleges in the state from May 2 till further orders.

The IMD has issued a formal cyclone alert for Odisha, West Bengal and parts of Andhra Pradesh, and suggested evacuation of coastal areas.

The Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD said Cyclone ‘Fani’ (pronounced Foni) lays southwest and adjoining west-central and southeast Bay of Bengal about 760 km south-southwest of Puri (Odisha) and 560 km south-southeast of Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and about 660 km north-northeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka).

An IMD bulletin on Tuesday evening said storm surge of about 1.5 metre above astronomical tide is likely to inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha at the time of possible landfall.

While heavy rainfall is expected across Odisha, light to moderate rainfall is expected in many other states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.

Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and Army relief teams are also on high alert for rapid response.

In view of the severity of the situation, the Indian Navy has stationed two ships at Visakhapatnam and Chennai carrying expert divers and doctors, an official said.

Aircraft of the Indian Navy are also in a state of readiness at two locations for emergency services.

The Indian Air Force has also been alerted and their services will be utilised if necessary, Odisha Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) B P Sethi said, adding the state government has taken up the matter with the NDRF.

After a video conference with Union Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, Odisha Chief Secretary A P Padhi told reporters that the primary task is to ensure proper evacuation of people from low-lying areas of the coastal districts, which will be launched on May 2.

All the 880 cyclone centres have been readied for the purpose. Boats have also been kept in a state of readiness, the SRC said.

During the meeting, Padhi sought two helicopters be stationed in a state for emergency and additional NDRF personnel for rescue and relief operation.

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s top body to deal with emergency situations, met in Delhi Tuesday for the second time in as many days and reviewed the preparedness.

The NDRF is deploying 41 teams in Andhra Pradesh (eight teams), Odisha (28) and West Bengal (five teams). In addition, the NDRF is keeping on standby 13 teams in West Bengal and 10 in Andhra Pradesh, a Central government official said.

A team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) comprises about 45 personnel.

A home ministry statement said based on the decision of the first meeting of the NCMC, headed by Cabinet Secretary Sinha, the central government has already released advance financial assistance of Rs 1,086 crore to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.

The IMD has suggested a total suspension of fishing activities operations, extensive evacuation from coastal areas, diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic. It also asked the people in areas likely to be affected by the storm to remain indoors and advised against operation of motorboats and small ships in the sea.

Director of the regional meteorological centre, H.R. Biswas said the impact of Cyclone ‘Fani’ is likely to be much more severe than ‘Titli’, which had hit the Odisha-Andhra coast last year and killed at least 60 people.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has approved the proposal to lift provisions of Model Code of Conduct in districts of Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Gajapati, Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack and Jajpur to facilitate speedy rescue, relief and restoration activities to face the cyclonic storm.