New Delhi: Immediately on return from his tour abroad, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Saturday reviewed the situation arising out of the Cyclone Phailin.
Dr Singh, who arrived in New Delhi this evening after ending his four-day visit to Brunei and Indonesia, was briefed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth on the arrangements that have been put in place to deal with the impact of the cyclone.
Dr Singh directed that all possible assistance should be extended to the state governments concerned in ensuring the safety and security of the people and in relief and rescue operations.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde today said the cyclonic storm Phailin is inching closer to the coastal town of Gopalpur, and added that over 5.5 lakh people have been evacuated so far from Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
“In about another 30 to 45 minutes, it will come closer to Gopalpur (in Odisha). It will hit Odisha the most and then hit the three districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It will hit eight districts in Odisha,” Shinde told media here.
“We have been making arrangements (to counter it) and the evacuation work also began from day before yesterday. 5, 50,000 people have been evacuated so far. About 4,50,000 people have been evacuated from Odisha and one lakh from these three districts of Andhra,” he added.
Shinde said an alert is being issued for those who are not ready to move out.
The Home Minister informed that 18 helicopters and 12 aircrafts are on standby to tackle any emergency situation.
Shinde further said the administration, police, NDRF and the defence forces are ready to combat any challenge.
At least 600 buildings have been identified as cyclone shelters, and people are being evacuated from areas near the coast, including Ganjam, Puri, Khordha and Jagatsinghapur Districts in Odisha.
The Cabinet Secretary earlier in the day asserted that the Centre has put all disaster preparedness measures in place so that the impact of the natural disaster is minimized, and urged the people living along the coast to exercise prudence.
Shedding light on the preparations for relief operations, Seth said the NDRF has deployed a number of teams both in Odisha and in Andhra Pradesh. In Odisha, 26 NDRF teams along with three on standby have been deployed. In Andhra Pradesh, there are 15 teams of NDRF, with additional two on standby.
"Besides these, there are an additional 30 to 25 teams, which can be deployed at short notice. ... Control rooms have been set up within every Ministry, which will work around the clock," Seth said.
Meanwhile, the Army has deployed an engineering task force, six composite relief units, four columns in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The Air Force, on its part, has put in place frontline C-17 Globemasters, C-130 J Super Hercules and IL-76 transport planes to Odisha to carry out relief operations.
The Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy has assumed the highest degree of readiness to render all necessary humanitarian assistance.
Two Indian Naval ships, including the Landing Platform Dock INS Jalashwa are standing by to proceed with dispatch to the most affected areas of Odisha in the cyclone`s aftermath.
INS Jalashwa, the second largest combatant of the Indian Navy, is ideally equipped to undertake Humanitarian Aid Distress Relief (HADR), evacuation, logistic support and hospital ship operations.
Both the ships are poised with additional divers, doctors, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopters and relief material that include food, tentage, clothes, medicines, blankets etc, in quantities sufficient to sustain over 5000 personnel for three days.
Six advance diving teams with inflatable boats, rescue material and satellite communication have left for Odisha by road and will operate from INS Chilka, 50 km north of Gopalapatnam, where the cyclone is expected to make landfall.
These personnel will be assisted by four platoons from the local naval station and doctors from INHS Nivarini in their rescue and relief efforts.
The Eastern Naval Command is monitoring the developments closely and is in constant communication with the state administration to augment rescue and relief operations.
Six helicopters are standing by at the Naval Air Station INS Dega to undertake reconnaissance, rescue, casualty evacuation and air drop of relief material to the stranded.
Additionally, the telecom department has also prepared itself to ensure that communication links are stable during the expected disaster.
The Indian Railways has cancelled 99 trains and also short terminated and diverted a number of trains in view of the sever Cyclone Phailin.
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has given instructions to his men to take care of the passengers and to ensure safety and minimum inconvenience to the people.