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Cyclone 'Fani' likely to hit Odisha coast by Friday: Official

Severe cyclonic storm 'Fani' itensified into a very severe cyclonic storm on Tuesday, and is likely hit the Odisha coast between Puri and Kendrapara by Friday, a senior official said.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) is yet to specify the exact location of landfall.

However, in its 12 pm bulletin, the Cyclone Warning Division of the IMD said Fani lays over southeast and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal, about 830 km nearly south of Puri, 670 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and about 680 km northeast of Trincomalee (Sri Lanka).

"The IMD module indicates that cylone Fani is expected to make a landfall somewhere between Satapada or Chandrabhaga in Puri district and Gupti in Kendrapara late on May 3," Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) B P Sethi said.

According to a forecast issued by the US Navy, the cyclonic system is likely to cross Odisha through the coast, he said, adding, the exact location of the landfall will be clear on Wednesday after the cyclone recurves.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, meanwhile, has released funds from State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) in advance to four states -- Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Of the total financial assistance of Rs 1,086 crore, Odisha will get Rs 340.87 crore.

The cyclonic storm moved at a speed of about 16 kmph in the last six hours and intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm. It lay centred about 760 km southeast of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, said H R Biswas, director of the regional meteorological centre here.

The impact of 'Fani' is likely to be much more severe than 'Titli', which had hit the Odisha-Andhra coast last year, Biswas said.

At least 60 people had been killed when cyclone 'Titli' struck Odisha in October 2018.

Biswas said 'Fani' is very likely to intensify further into an extremely severe cyclonic storm during the next 36 hours, and expected to move northwestwards till May 1 evening, and, thereafter, recurve north-northeastwards towards Odisha coast.

The cyclone will trigger heavy to very heavy rainfall in the south and east coastal districts, while there will be isolated heavy rainfall at one or two places in the north Odisha districts, he said.

Sethi said rains will lash many coastal areas on May 2 and the intensity will assume severe shape on May 3, while windspeeds will be up to 70 kmph.

The IMD said squally winds with speeds of 40-50 kmph and gusting to 60 kmph is very likely to commence along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts from May 2, and very likely to become gale wind, with speeds reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 85 kmph from the morning of May 3.

As the sea will be very rough, fishermen have been advised not to venture into the waters from May 2 off Odisha and West Bengal coasts. Those who are out in the deep sea are advised to return to the coasts, said an official.

The SRC said the Odisha government has put the coastal districts on high alert and is prepared to face any eventuality.

Sethi said 20 units of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), 12 units of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 335 units of fire services have been kept in a state of preparedness.

Instruction has been issued to undertake prompt evacuation of people from all vulnerable areas and shift them to the cyclone centres from May 2, he said, adding, all the 880 such centres have been readied for the purpose.

Boats are also kept in readiness for rescue operations if required.

The Indian Air Force, the Navy and Coast Guards have been alerted and their services will be utilised if necessary, Sethi said.

The district collectors of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Kendrapara have cancelled leaves of state government employees, as a part of the preparedness.