Cyclonic storm 'Amphan' is likely to intensify into a super cyclone by Monday evening, bringing heavy rains and strong winds in coastal Odisha and Gangetic West Bengal, the weater office said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will later in the day chair a high-level meeting to review the situation arising out of cyclone 'Amphan'. Union Minister Amit Shah said the prime minister's meeting with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Disaster Management Authority will take place at 4 pm.
In an advisory to West Bengal and Odisha governments, the Union Home Ministry has said 'Amphan' (pronounced as UM-PUN) was spotted on Monday morning over central parts of South Bay of Bengal and the adjoining central Bay of Bengal.
The cyclone is all set to unleash heavy rains coupled with high-velocity winds in coastal Odisha and Gangetic West Bengal, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. While the Odisha government is preparing for a possible evacuation of 11 lakh people residing in vulnerable areas, the West Bengal government has issued an alert in coastal districts and sent relief teams.
The MeT department, which has issued an 'orange' warning for West Bengal, said 'Amphan' is likely to cross the West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts between Digha and Hatiya Islands in the afternoon or evening of May 20 as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph before losing some steam ahead of landfall.
The high-velocity winds may cause extensive damage to mud houses and partial damage to 'pucca' structures, it said.
Super cyclonic storm AMPHAN developing over Bay of Bengal. (IMD)
The winds may also lead to bending or uprooting of power and communication poles, minor disruption of railways and may affect overhead power lines and signalling systems and also cause widespread damage to standing crops, plantations, orchards, the weatherman said.
IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said that northern parts of Odisha are likely to be more affected due to the cyclone. Coastal districts like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore are likely to experience heavy rainfall accompanied by high-velocity winds, particularly on May 19 and 20, he said.
Coastal Odisha is likely to experience light to moderate rainfall in many places from the evening of May 18, with heavy rain in some places in coastal Odisha districts like Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara. Under the cyclone's impact, the coastal districts of Gangetic West Bengal, including North and South 24 Parganas, Kolkata, East and West Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly are likely to experience light to moderate rain at many places with heavy downpour at isolated places on May 19, G K Das, Director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata said.
Relief materials, dry fruits and trampoline have been dispatched to coastal areas, a senior official said.
"We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency. Special control rooms have been set up, and State Disaster Relief Force teams have been deployed. We are also making announcements through public address systems," the official said.
Quick response teams comprising trained civil defence volunteers and vehicles with necessary equipment have already reached the districts. The State Emergency Operation Centre, functioning at the state secretariat, is in constant touch with district EOCs, officials said.
Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner P K Jena said district collectors of Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurda and Nayagarh have been asked to remain in a state of preparedness for evacuating people from vulnerable areas whenever necessary.
"Greater attention is being given to the four districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore. We are keeping a close watch on these districts as the areas are likely to be more vulnerable," he said.
Arrangements have been made to shift around 11 lakh people from vulnerable areas to safer places but the number of people to be evacuated and places where such operations will be required will be decided at the right time, Jena said.
Fishermen drag a boat to the bank of River Hooghly at Santipur following an alert by authorities after Cyclone Fani made its landfall in Odisha, in Nadia district of West Bengal. | File Photo: PTI
Of the 809 cyclone shelters in the 12 coastal districts, 242 are now being used as temporary medical camps for the returnees from different states amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, he said.
"We have 567 cyclone and flood shelters to house people if evacuation is required. In addition to these, 7,092 other buildings have been identified which can be utilised as temporary shelters," the SRC said. He said all the fishermen have returned to the coast following the cyclone warning.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has set a target "zero casualty" due to the cyclone. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General S N Pradhan said 10 units have been sent to seven districts in Odisha while 10 other units have been kept on standby.
Patnaik has directed officials to prepare a plan for relocating people living in vulnerable areas to safer places along with an early restoration of affected road communication, drinking water supply, electricity, infrastructure and power supply to hospitals.
Cyclone 'Amphan' comes a year after cyclone Fani barreled through vast areas of Odisha on May 3 last year, claiming at least 64 lives and destroying infrastructure in power, telecommunication, water supply and other vital sectors.