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Cyclone bulbul: Kolkata airport shut for 12 hours, 120,000 evacuated in WB

The West Bengal government, besides taking precautionary measures, evacuated 1.2 lakh people from the coastal areas and the Eastern Naval Command kept itself ready

Avishek Rakshit  |  Kolkata 

cyclone bulbul
Photo: @OdishaExpress

At the onset of the very severe cyclonic storm Bulbul, flight operations at the Kolkata airport was suspended for 12 hours beginning 6:00 pm while schools and colleges remained closed and offices registered low attendance.

The West Bengal government, besides taking precautionary measures, evacuated 1.2 lakh people from the coastal areas and the Eastern Naval Command kept itself ready.

The India Meteorological Department at Kolkata said that Bulbul has been moving northwards from Bay of Bengal at a speed of 13 kmph; and at the time of going to press, it remained near Sagar Islands and the Digha coast.

At the time of going to press, it was learnt that this severe is very likely to weaken gradually, move northeastwards and cross West Bengal - Bangladesh coasts between Sagar Islands (West Bengal) and Khepupara (Bangladesh), across the Sunderbans delta by Saturday night as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with maximum sustained wind speed of 110-120 Kmph gusting to 135 Kmph.

The state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, said, “Our state administration is closely monitoring the situation 24x7. We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency. Special Control Rooms have been set up and NDRF-SDRF teams are deployed”.

A total of 34 NDRF teams have been stationed in Odisha and West Bengal which are bearing the brunt of Bulbul.

The Eastern Naval Command is also on alert as well. Three Indian Navy ships at Visakhapatnam are on standby with relief material embarked for immediate deployment to the most affected areas to undertake Humanitarian Aid Distress Relief operation. Additionally, 10 diving and medical teams are also kept ready for augmenting rescue and relief efforts in Odisha and West Bengal.

Naval aircrafts have also been kept ready at Naval Air Station, INS Dega to undertake aerial survey of the most affected areas, casualty evacuation and airdrop of relief material as required by the state administration. The Naval Officers-in-Charge, West Bengal and Odisha are in constant liaison with respective state administrations for rendering assistance as required.

“Schools, colleges and anganwadi centres have been closed and more than 1 lakh 20 thousand people have already been rescued from the vulnerable coastal areas”, Banerjee added.

The Kolkata Port Trust, which suspended shipping till further notice, also opened a control centre on Saturday and sent pilot launches to Haldia for shelter.

It advised all vessels for safe parking and lashing of equipment at berths and back up area and ships at berths have been advised to strengthen their mooring arrangements.

On the other hand, the Netaji Subhash International Airport at Kolkata suspended flight operations for 12 hours.

“Due to impact of Bulbul with strong cross winds and likely wind shear in approaches, flight operations at Kolkata Airport will be discontinued from 6 pm on Saturday upto 6 am on Sunday”, an official at the airport said.

In view of the cyclone, private carriers including Indigo and SpiceJet also suspended operations and allowed full refund with zero cancellation charges. Indigo also offered to accommodate its passengers on the next fight at no extra cost.

Despite incessant heavy rains, projected to be between 7-11 cm, lashing southern West Bengal since Friday late night, Eastern Railways maintained normal train movements till evening when the downpour, as a result of the cyclone, intensified and train movement had to be stopped in two crucial sections. Otherwise, train movement remained nearly normal. However, it has readied Tower Wagons at various locations to control the situation in case of any exigencies.

A statement from Eastern Railways said that its officers and staff have been kept on high alert and the weather situation is being closely monitored.

In coastal Odisha and West Bengal, including the metropolis, winds reached a speed of 55-70 kmph during the evening.

First Published: Sat, November 09 2019. 19:00 IST