West Bengal and Odisha are bracing for “widespread damage” as Super Cyclone AMPHAN, which has now weakened into an “extremely severe” cyclonic storm, will make a landfall in Bengal today afternoon.
However, the cyclonic storm is still packed enough force to pulverise coastal districts of Odisha and West Bengal where lakhs of people were evacuated from vulnerable areas and shifted to safety.
Cyclone AMPHAN is expected make a landfall somewhere between West Bengal’s Digha and Hatya Island in Bangladesh. A part of it may also make a landfall somewhere between Kakdwip and Sagar Island in the state’s South 24 Parganas district at a minimum speed of 155-165 km/hour and a maximum of 185 km/hour.
As it moved closer to the coast, several parts of Odisha received heavy rainfall and saw strong winds and high tides.
Digha in West Bengal’s East Medinipur is also witnessing high tides and strong winds as the cyclonic storm approaches ad citizens have been urged to stay indoors.
The cyclonic system that spread in a diameter of 18 km on Monday expanded to 33 km on Tuesday, a meteorological department official said in Bhubaneswar, explaining that the sprawl had reduced the cyclone’s intensity.
“AMPHAN is the most intense and the first super cyclone since the 1999 Odisha cyclone. We are dealing with a multi-hazard scenario as the devastating winds are expected to cause extensive damage to structures,h ouses and trees,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the, India Meteorological Department.
This is the second pre-monsoon cyclone to hit India in two years and has been anticipated as one of the worst storm over Bay of Bengal in decades. Odisha was savaged by a super cyclone in 1999 that had claimed around 10,000 lives.
Forty-one teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), including seven reserves, have been deployed in the two states, its chief S N Pradhan said in New Delhi.
Fifteen NDRF teams are deployed and five are in reserve in seven districts of Odisha, while 19 teams were actively deployed and two in reserve in six West Bengal districts, he said.
Due to social-distancing protocols in the wake of Coronavirus, the cyclone rescue centres having a capacity to hold about 1,000 people will have only 400-500 people, Pradhan said.
Pradhan said Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a meeting of the national crisis management committee (NCMC) on Tuesday to take stock of the situation.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee to review the preparedness for the impending cyclone.
Odisha is in a state of readiness to evacuate around 11 lakh people living in vulnerable areas, officials said.
The process has already started and around one lakh people have been evacuated to safety.
Coastal districts of North and South 24 Parganas, and East Midnapore, including the ecologically fragile Sundarbans, in West Bengal face a serious threat of inundation and significant damage to life and property.
Meanwhile, the IMD has advised people to remain at home and warned against opening markets in and around Kolkata on Wednesday.
North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly districts will experience strong winds and rainfall, regional director of the meteorological department G K Das said.
“Storm surge of 4 to 5 metres above astronomical tide is likely to inundate low lying areas of South and North 24 Parganas and about 3 to 4 metres over low lying areas of East Midnapore district of West Bengal during the time of landfall,” he said.
These districts had suffered the most during cyclone ‘Bulbul’ and ‘Fani’ last year.
1,704 shelter camps have been set up and 1,19.075 people have been evacuated so far in Odisha in view of Cyclone AMPHAN.
West Bengal has so far evacuated over 3 lakh people from the coastal areas and shifted them to temporary cyclone centres.
In neighbouring Bangladesh, over two million people have been evacuated to safety to 12,078 cyclone shelters.
According to US space agency NASA, AMPHAN is the equivalent of a Category-5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
“It was designated Tropical Cyclone 01B. Overnight, it quickly strengthened to hurricane force,” NASA has said.