The Indian Air Force's (IAF's) latest strategic transport aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster, undertook its first sortie towards transporting of relief materials, including specialist army vehicles and ambulance from bases in central India to Bhubaneswar, ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Phailin, due to strike later this evening.
The C-17 airlifted 60 troops and rescue and medical material, including heavy vehicles and ambulance from Allahabad before landing at Bubaneswar at around 8.15 a.m. today. Additionally, the IAF has already started transporting NDRF personnel and other heavy relief equipment by by IL-76s and AN-32 from various bases across the country.
The IAF has also kept in readiness two C-130J Super Hercules towards rescue and relief efforts.
Earlier while giving an update over the progress of the Very Severe Cyclonic Storm (VSCS), Phailin, Director General of the MET Department, L.S. Rathore, on Saturday, said the disaster would continue to have an impact in the affected regions for at least 24 hours after the cyclone hits the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Rathore also confirmed that there was no scope of the cyclone weakening prior to the landfall hit.
"After it hits, Phailin will continue for six hours as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm, six hours as Cyclonic Storm, and then another 12 hours as a depression and move northwestwards. So, the total (impact) will last for 24 hours," Rathore said.
"Both intensity of wind and rainfall will increase as the day progresses....The storm surge is expected to have a height of 3 to 3.5 metre. ...It will not weaken before it crosses the coast," he confirmed.
Rathore said that Phailin is presently moving in northwestwardly direction and will continue to move towards the coast of Andhra, north Andhra, Odisha. He confirmed that it is likely to hit between Kallingapatnam and Paradip, around Gopalpur, this evening.
Apart from the storm striking Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, its impact is expected to be felt in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Gangetic West Bengal, Bihar and East Uttar Pradesh, where heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely.
In the latest update, the Very Severe Cyclonic Storm is now centered around 200 kilometers southeast of Gopalpur; that is, latitude 17.8 degree North and Longitude 86 degree East.
Meanwhile, gusty winds of 65 to 75 kilometers per hour have been reported from the coast of Odisha.
Phailin, which is likely to hit the coast at 6 p.m. today, is expected to bring wind speeds at 210 to 220 kilometers, gusting up to 240 kilometers per hour when the cyclone hits the coast.
Massive evacuation operations have been taking place since yesterday evening, and the MET Department has confirmed that the process is almost complete in an attempt to minimize damage.
Nearly three lakh people have been evacuated in Odisha, and at least 65,000 people have been evacuated in Andhra Pradesh by rescue and relief teams.
Authorities in the two states have warned of extensive damage to crops, village dwellings and old buildings, as well as disruption of power, water and rail services. Shelters were being stocked with rations, and leave for government employees for Dussehra have been cancelled.