After wreaking havoc in Odisha, claiming 10 lives and unleashing massive destruction on its way, Cyclone Fani entered West Bengal post-midnight on Saturday. The weakened cylonic storm, downgraded to 'severe cyclonic storm', has crossed Kharagpur and is currently moving in the north-east direction with a wind speed of 90 km/hour. The storm now lies close to Arambagh in Hooghly district, and is 40 km west of Kolkata.
"It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards during next 12 hours and emerge into Gangetic West Bengal with a wind speed of 80-90 kmph gusting to 105 kmph by the early morning of May 4," said the India Meteorological Department in a statement.
After entering Bengal, Fani lashed towns and cities including Digha, Haldia, Tajpur, Mandarmani, Sandehskhali, Contai, Diamond Harbour, Bankura, Sriniketan, Asansol, Dumdum and Alipore. Apart from Kharagpur and Kolkata, effects of the storm could also be felt in Burdwan district. Trees were uprooted, power and telecom lines snapped, metal hoardings gave away as the storm swept through Bengal.
Parts of Kolkata and surrounding areas received moderate to heavy rainfall since Friday afternoon. The rains are expected to continue till early Saturday. No loss of life or any injury has been reported from Bengal so far.
"The severe cyclonic storm Fani entered Bengal at 12.30 a.m. through Odisha`s Balasore. It crossed Kharagpur packing a wind of 70-80 kmph, gusting to 90 kmph," Regional Meteorological Centre`s Deputy Director General Sanjib Bandyopadhyay told news agency IANS. "It is likely to continue further in north, north east direction, and reach the east Burdwan-Hooghly border, and through Nadia go to Bangladesh on Saturday afternoon, weakening into a cyclonic storm, after having triggered rains," he added.
The most powerful tropical storm to hit India in 20 years, Cyclone Fani pummeled through coastal Odisha with wind speeds of over 200 kmph on Friday but failed to cause widespread death and destruction due to massive pre-emptive measures taken by the state government and other agencies. The death toll touched 10, with over 160 injured, as officials awaited information from far-off regions.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held a review meeting with senior officials on the destruction caused by cyclonic storm Fani in the state. “In the last 24 hours, 12 lakh people have been evacuated to safer locations and they are being taken care of in shelters,” Patnaik told media, adding that full assessment of damage will be possible only after it crosses the state.
The evacuees have been accommodated in over 4,000 shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres where free cooked food is being served to them, he said.
Flight and train operations were affected with around 220 trains on Howrah-Chennai route have been cancelled keeping in view passengers' safety, an East Coast Railway (ECoR) official said. A red alert has been issued in coastal areas and fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea.
On the other side of the border, Bangladesh too braced for the cyclone, evacuating over five lakh people from coastal areas.