Thousands of people have been evacuated from five coastal districts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh as ‘the very severe cyclonic’ storm Phailin intensified further and is expected to make landfall near Gopalpur (in Odisha) on Saturday evening.
“The cyclone has intensified further and is moving at an average speed of 15 km per hour,” said L. S. Rathore, Director-General of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
He, however, denied that Phailin has become a super-cyclone, though it did look like the 1999 storm that caused significant damage.
As of now, Phailin is likely to make landfall with wind speeds of 200-220 kmph. It is unlikely to intensify further, Rathore said.
Evacuation of people from Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh has begun, where the storm surge with a height of three metres above the astronomical tide is predicted to inundate low-lying areas.
Phailin is expected to bring in heavy rain in Odisha, northern Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
The storm may also result in large scale disruption of power and communication lines, rail and road traffic and extensive damage to agriculture crops.
“Preparation to deal with Phailin has been better than in 1999 in terms of minimising the impact,” Rathore said. About 30 teams of the National Disaster Response Force consisting of over 600 people have been stationed in Odisha, while another 15 teams are in Andhra Pradesh to assist the local administration.
“Both these States have taken adequate measures for providing food, water and medical aid to those evacuated,” Rathore said, adding that the Army and the Air Force have been put on alert.
The East Coast Railway has cancelled 24 local trains between Visakhapatnam and Bhadrak on the Howrah-Chennai Main Line and to Paradip, Puri, Angul and Talcher. Besides, Paradip and Dhamra ports have also suspended operations.