With extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani inching closer to Odisha, the state started evacuation of vulnerable population from low-lying areas in 13 districts to temporary shelters. “Fani will hit the Odisha coast Friday morning. Safety of people will be given highest priority. About 800,000 people are targeted to be evacuated and steps are being taken by the districts collectors accordingly,” Krupa Sindhu Mishra, spokesperson, SRC’s (Special Relief Commissioner) office, said.
According to the data received from different districts, 250,000 people had already been evacuated to shelter houses till 2 pm on Thursday. Odisha has identified 3,001 shelter homes to accommodate people from pockets in Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara districts, among others. About 100,000 food packets have been readied for para-dropping.
The government has assigned 12 senior IAS officers to supervise the relief, rehabilitation and restoration work. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik conducted a meeting with telcos and reviewed about their preparedness. Among those present were the circle heads of Airtel, Reliance Jio, Idea and BSNL.
As many as 25 teams of National Disaster Response Force have been deployed in the districts that will be affected. Three more teams are on standby in Bhubaneswar. Similarly, 18 teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force have been dispatched and fire services teams are on standby.
Meanwhile, alarm was sounded in West Midnapore, North 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hoogly districts, in Jhargram and the Sundarbans, besides Kolkata. Schools have been ordered closed and people asked to move to safer places. “A 24x7 control room has been set up to monitor the situation,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
The port at Gopalpur has suspended all operations. After Paradip suspended operations earlier, Shapoorji Pallonji group-promoted Gopalpur Ports became the second port to do so. Adani Group-owned Dhamra port also suspended operations on Thursday. An Essar Steel spokesperson said: “We are in touch with the district administration and have taken all precautionary measures.” ONGC evacuated 500 employees from offshore installations in the Bay of Bengal and moved drilling rigs to safer locations ahead of an impending cyclone.
Airlines have cancelled flights to and from Biju Patnaik International Airport from Thursday midnight for the next 24 hours. GoAir said it will not charge any fee for rescheduling or cancellations for its flights to and from Bhubaneswar, Kolkata
and Ranchi till May 5.
The Railways said at least 223 trains were cancelled in the last two days, while three special trains were pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers. It will grant full refund for cancelled or diverted trains if tickets are produced in three days from the scheduled date of journey.
PM Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting to review preparedness for cyclone Fani. The PM was briefed on the likely path of the cyclone, and the ongoing precautionary and preparatory measures being undertaken, official sources said. These include provision of adequate resources; deployment of teams from NDRF and the armed forces; arrangements to provide drinking water; and standby systems to restore power, telecom services.
With inputs from agencies, BS reporters