Cyclone 'Fani' bites Odisha, eight dead
Bhubaneshwar/Kolkata: Cyclone 'Fani' rolled through Odisha on Friday, packing rain and windstorm that gusted up to 175 kmph, leaving at least eight people dead, blowing away thatched houses, and swamping towns and villages.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm 'Fani' or the 'Hood of Snake' made landfall around 8 a.m. in Puri, with roaring winds flattening huts, enveloping the pilgrim town in sheets of rain, and submerging homes in residential areas.
Special Relief Commissioner B P Sethi said three people were reported dead in different incidents in Puri, Nayagarh and Kendrapara districts. While a teenage boy was killed when a tree collapsed on him in Puri, flying debris from a concrete structure left a woman dead in Nayagarh. An elderly woman died of heart attack at a relief shelter in Kendrapara district.
The cyclonic system, whose eye is around 28 km wide, is moving at around 30 kmph, Biswas said. But within the system, the winds are reaching speeds of up to 175 kilometers per hour that may go up to 200 kmph, leaving in their wake uprooted trees and thatched structures, including in the state capital Bhubaneswar.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) DIG Randeep Rana said not many casualties were reported so far as precautionary measures were in place.
The state administration had evacuated nearly 11 lakh people two days ahead of the cyclone from about 10,000 villages and 52 urban agglomerations in probably the largest evacuation exercise at the time of a natural calamity in the country.
The evacuees have been accommodated in over 4,000 shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres.
After the landfall, the system is passing through Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore before it would enter West Bengal, Sethi said, adding that Bhubaneswar was likely to be hit by high velocity wind of around 140 kmph.
Telecommunication lines got snapped in several parts of state capital Bhubaneswar and several other areas. Mobile towers were damaged and power supply was disconnected in many places.
A Bhubaneswar report said scores of trees collapsed, blocking roads. As Fani pummelled Odisha, neighbouring West Bengal braced itself for its fury.
The sky was overcast in Kolkata and several other places since Friday morning as rain came in spurts, inundating several parts of the state capital. Traffic snarls were reported from different places in the city.
The storm brought down the political temperature, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelling all her election rallies that were planned over the next 48 hours and getting down to monitoring the situation.
"The eye of the storm is likely to be weakened when it enters West Bengal. The wind speed will be around 100 kmph to 110 kmph," an official of the meteorological department said.
A red alert has been issued in coastal areas and fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea.
Several districts including East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas besides, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans are likely to be hit by the storm that would then move towards Bangladesh and taper off.
Airports in Bhubaneswar and Kolkata have been closed. No flights will depart or arrive at Kolkata airport from 3 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday, aviation regulator DGCA said in New Delhi.
In a series of tweets, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said Friday that all airlines must immediately respond to the concerns of passengers affected by Cyclone Fani.
"We are ready to offer help needed for the stranded due to cyclonic storm Fani. Control room, helplines are manned all times to assist affected passengers. All Airlines must immediately respond to the concerns of passengers," he tweeted.
Parbhu also said his ministry will work with the governments of the affected states to assist them in rescue and relief operations.
More than 220 trains on the Kolkata-Chennai route have been cancelled until Saturday.