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Cyclone Fani intensifies, orange alert issued in Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh coastal districts

According to the Meteorological Department, cyclone Fani lay centred over the west-central Bay of Bengal about 570 km south-southwest of Odisha's Puri.

Cyclone Fani intensifies, orange alert issued in Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh coastal districts

The extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani over west central Bay of Bengal moved north-northeastwards on Wednesday evening with a speed of about 13 kmph and is likely to hit Odisha's shores on Friday.

According to the Meteorological Department, cyclone Fani lay centred over the west-central Bay of Bengal about 570 km south-southwest of Odisha's Puri, 320 km south-southeast of Andhra Pradesh's Vishakhapatnam and 760 km south-southwest of West Bengal's Digha. It is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha Coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri during Friday afternoon with a maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph. The Met Department issued an orange alert in the three states--Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

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A warning for heavy rainfall has been predicted in north Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya. The squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is very likely to commence along and off north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts from Thursday morning.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has taken a series of pre-emptive measures such as the deployment of ships with disaster relief material, use of Dornier aircraft to warn fishing boats and special community interaction programmes in coastal areas, news agency PTI reported citing an official statement. To ensure that widespread precautionary measures are in place in areas likely to be affected by the cyclonic storm, the ICG is in closely liasioning with state administration as well as the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The ICG said Wednesday that its "ships have been kept on standby for mobilisation of disaster relief material" in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Odisha and West Bengal. "Four Dornier sorties are being launched every day on an average for alerting fishing boats from Chennai, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata," it said, adding "special community interactions" were conducted at 12 places such as Tuticorin, Pamban, Villupuram, Chennai and Haldia. 

The ICG has kept total 20 Disaster Response Teams on standby at six places -- four each in Vizag, Chennai, Paradip and Haldia and two each in Gopalpur and Frazergunj. "Teams (are) ready for mobilisation at short notice with lifesaving equipment," the Coast Guard said. 

Ahead of the impending cyclone, state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has evacuated 480 of its employees from rigs operating in the Bay of Bengal. PTI sources said ONGC has also moved at least four rigs to safer waters away from the path of severe cyclonic storm Fani. The operations at Paradip port in Odisha and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh have been shut and ships ordered to move out of the sea to avoid damage.

The sea condition is phenomenal off north Andhra Pradesh coasts till Friday and off Odisha and West Bengal during Thursday-Saturday. It is very likely to be very rough to high off north Tamilnadu, Puducherry, along and off south Andhra Pradesh Coasts till Friday. The fishermen have been advised not to venture into deep sea areas.

A damage is expected in several coastal areas of  Odisha--Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Balasore districts; West Bengal--east & west Medinipur, south & north 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hoogli, Kolkata districts and Andhra Pradesh--Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vijayanagaram districts.

Disruption of rail, road link at several places is also expected.

Odisha:

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the preparedness, said around eight lakh people will be evacuated from vulnerable areas to safe places by Thursday evening. Noting that every life is precious, the chief minister directed the administration to evacuate all people from vulnerable areas. He also asked local administrations to run free kitchens.

Leave of all doctors and health officials have been cancelled till May 15. State police chief R P Sharma said leave of all police personnel have also been cancelled and those on leave have been asked to immediately report for duty. IAS officers have been put in charge of relief, rescue and restoration operations in vulnerable districts. Sharma said Superintendents of Police have been asked to constantly monitor the situation and reach relief to stricken people.

The 880 cyclone shelters in coastal and southern districts have been kept ready to accommodate the evacuees, Sethi said, adding that in districts like Gajapati and Rayagada, where such facilities do not exist, they will be housed in schools and anganwadi centres. The Election Commission has, meanwhile, relaxed the provisions of the model code of conduct in 11 coastal districts to facilitate relief and rescue operations, state's chief electoral officer Surendra Kumar said.

These districts--Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Gajapati, Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack and Jajpur--are likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone, which is also likely to impact Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had on Tuesday urged the Election Commission to withdraw the model code from all coastal districts to help the state government handle the situation in the aftermath of the storm. Surendra Kumar said Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Jagatsinghpur and Gajapati districts will be shifted to safer places in the presence of representatives of all political parties. The exercise will be videographed to maintain transparency.

The East Coast Railway has cancelled 74 trains in view of the cyclone, an ECoR official said.

Tourists have been asked to leave Puri by Thursday evening, while Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar will remain closed from May 2 to 4. The higher education department has directed all state universities and colleges in Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts to remain closed for three days from May 2.

Oil marketing companies have been asked to store adequate quantities of kerosene, petrol and diesel so rescue and relief efforts are not adversely affected.

with agency inputs