223 trains cancelled along Orissa coastline of Kolkata-Chennai route till May 4 in view of cyclone Fani: Railways.
The Railways said around 102 trains have been cancelled in the last two days in view of the 'extremely severe' cyclonic storm 'Fani', which is likely to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, while three special trains pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas. Four trains have been diverted, it said.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's top body to handle an emergency situation, Wednesday reviewed the preparedness for Cyclone 'Fani', which is likely to hit the south of Puri in Odisha on Friday, a Home Ministry official said.
Around 900 cyclone shelters have been made ready to house evacuees, while troops of the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and 78 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been requisitioned for deployment.
The Railways has said around 95 trains have been cancelled in the last two days in view of the 'extremely severe' cyclonic storm 'Fani', which is likely to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, while three special trains have been pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas.
The national transporter said it will grant full refund to passengers for the cancelled or diverted trains if tickets are produced for cancellation within three days from the scheduled date of journey.
The Railways had cancelled 81 trains on Wednesday.
The trains which have been cancelled include the Howrah-Chennai Central Coromandal Express, Patna-Eranakulam Express, New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, Howrah-Hyderabad East Coast Express and the Bhubaneswar-Rameswaram Express.
The New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express, New Delhi-Puri Nandan Kanan Express, Puri-New Delhi Purushottam Express and the New Delhi-Puri Purushottam Express which had to begin their journeys Thursday have been cancelled as well.
The Railways has also cancelled six more trains which were to begin on Friday. These include the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express and the Puri-New Delhi Nandan Kanan Express.
The transporter has issued directions to the divisional managers of all zones that frequent announcements are to be made at important stations for sensitising passengers about the cancellations, short termination and diversion of coaching trains in both directions of the Bhadrak (Odisha)-Visakhapatnam section.
So far, the Railways has announced three tourist special trains to ferry passengers from affected areas.
A special train has started from Puri at 12 noon, going towards Shalimar in West Bengal. It has reserved as well as unreserved accommodation. It will stop at Khurda Road, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Jajpur, Kendujhar Road, Bhadrak, Baleswar and Kharagpur.
The other two special trains will ferry passengers from Puri to Howrah.
Earlier on Wednesday, Railways had issued instructions that dry food items, 'janata khana' and water bottles in sufficient quantities were to be made available at catering stalls of all major stations.
No flights will take off from midnight today for the next 24 hours from the Bhubaneswar airport.
"The landfall, which was expected to be at 5:30 pm tomorrow (May 3), is now expected between 12 and 2 pm. To this end, all colleges and soft business establishments will be remain shut tomorrow," Sangram Mohapatra, Spokesperson, Odisha State Disaster Management Authority, said.
Rahul Gandhi is addressing a public meeting in Jaipur,Rajasthan.
NASA satellites Aqua and Terra tracked Cyclone Fani as it continued to move northwards along the eastern coast of India, the US space agency said.
The satellites have been providing infrared, microwave and visible imagery of Fani, NASA said in a blog post.
Fani continued to strengthen and move north through the Northern Indian Ocean on April 30 and May 1 when Aqua and Terra satellite provided imagery of the strengthening storm, it said.
Pradhan said a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) and a commandant-rank officer have also been tasked to monitor the activities of the rescue and relief teams from ground in Odisha's capital Bhubaneswar and Puri.
The teams have been equipped with additional boats, satellite phones, medical equipment, medicines, tree cutters, pickup and common mobility vehicles, and other gadgets, he said.
The force has also activated a round-the-clock control room at its headquarters here and a team of officials is in constant touch with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and the disaster response units of the three states.
NDRF teams have also been kept on alert in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
"Cyclone 'Fani' is expected to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali to the south of Puri on May 3. NDRF teams are creating awareness among the locals in vulnerable areas about the measures to be taken to deal with the cyclonic storm and other eventualities. The state administration has set up a number of relief camps," an NDRF spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the NDRF teams have doctors, paramedics, engineers, deep divers and are equipped with boats, buoys, life jackets, scuba sets and latest communication equipment like quick deployable antenna (QDA), HF/VHF sets so that communication links function even if normal communication network fails.
Over 4,000 specialised personnel as part of 81 NDRF teams have been deployed to deal with the 'extremely severe' cyclone 'Fani' which is likely to affect Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal upon its landfall on Friday.
NDRF chief S N Pradhan told PTI that about 50 teams have been pre-positioned in the coastal areas of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal which are feared to be affected while another 31 teams have been kept on standby.
Twenty-eight fully equipped teams have been deployed in and around Puri in Odisha as the cyclonic storm is expected to make a landfall there Friday noon, the NDRF Director General (DG) said.
Similarly, 12 teams have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh and six in West Bengal. The rest of the teams, that comprise about 50 personnel each, have been kept on standby in these states.
"If necessary, I will visit cyclone-affected regions in the state. I have written a letter to the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking exemption from model code of conduct to monitor the situation during cyclones," Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said, after conducting a review meeting on Cyclone Fani.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has pre-positioned its 54 rescue and relief teams along the sea coast and in flood prone areas of Andhra Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
The Prime Minister was briefed on the likely path of the cyclone, and the ongoing precautionary and preparatory measures being undertaken, the statement said.
These include provision of adequate resources, deployment of teams from NDRF and the Armed Forces, arrangements to provide drinking water and standby systems to restore power and telecom services.
"After reviewing the emerging situation, the Prime Minister instructed senior officers of the Union Government to maintain close coordination with officers of the affected States, to ensure preventive measures, and also to take effective steps for relief and rescue operations, as required," it added.
The meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the PM, the Additional Principal Secretary to the PM, the Home Secretary, and other senior officials from the IMD, NDRF, NDMA and PMO.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday chaired a high-level meeting to review preparedness for cyclone Fani, which is going to hit Odisha and some other eastern coastal states on Friday, and instructed senior officers of the union government to ensure preventive measures and effective relief and rescue operations.
At the meeting, he directed the senior officers of the central government to maintain close coordination with officers of the affected states, a PMO statement said.
It said as Fani is likely to impact Bhubaneswar and Kolkata on May 2 and May 3, it is waiving "change and cancellation fee" for flights that will depart or arrive from these two cities between May 2 and May 5.
"Fare difference if any, will be applicable for date changes," the full-service carrier said.
Vistara has around four per cent of domestic passenger market share.
Fani lays centred over West Central Bay of Bengal, about 430 km south-southwest of Puri in Odisha, 225 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and 650 km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal, as per the latest bulletin of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
The operations of various domestic airlines have already been affected due to the oncoming cyclone.
IndiGo issued a travel advisory on Twitter, saying "due to Cyclone Fani, flights to and from Visakhapatnam have been cancelled for today (May 2, 2019)".
The low-cost carrier, which has around 44 per cent of domestic passenger market share, also advised passengers to go to one of its website links "to opt for alternate options or get a refund".
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said all authorities concerned have been alerted so that they are ready to deal with cyclone Fani.
"Alerted all concerned to be ready to deal with Cyclone Fani. Airport Authority of India issued alert to all coastal airports to ensure all precautions, SOPs (standard operating procedures) put in place immediately," Prabhu tweeted.
The Airports Authority of India owns and manages over 100 airports across the country.
The situation will be monitored at highest level and "airlines and all others (are) to be fully ready", Prabhu said.
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.
All operations were stopped at Paradip Port and Cautionary Distant Warning Signal Number Three was hoisted in all ports in Odisha. The Third Stage warning is issued at least 24 hours in advance of adverse weather over coastal areas.
The IMD has forecast rainfall at most places, heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places and extremely heavy rain at isolated places in coastal Odisha and the interior districts of the state on May 3.
Several areas are likely to receive rainfall up to 20 cm under the impact of the cyclone, Director of the Meteorological Centre in Bhubaneswar, H R Biswas said.
As sea condition will be rough and phenomenal over Northwest Bay of Bengal off Odisha and West Bengal till May 4, fishermen have been advised not to venture into sea in this period.
Tourists have been asked to leave Puri by Thursday evening, while Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar will remain closed from May 2 to 4.
In Gajapati and Rayagada districts, where such facilities do not exist, the evacuated people will be housed in schools and anganwadi centres.
The East Coast Railway (ECoR) has cancelled over 103 trains for the safety and security of passengers in view of the cyclone, an ECoR official said.
Three special trains will run from Puri to Howrah and Shalimar in West Bengal on Thursday for the evacuation of tourists and passengers, he said, adding train services between Bhadrak and Vizianagaram are cancelled for at least two days from Thursday evening.
Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and fire service have been sent to vulnerable areas to assist the administration, an official said.
The evacuation exercise from low lying areas will be completed by Thursday evening keeping in mind the forecast of massive tides that could surge up to 1.5 metres during the landfall, the SRC said.
The 880 cyclone shelters in coastal and southern districts have been kept ready to accommodate evacuees, he said.
Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens to provide cooked food to the evacuees.
Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping in the areas to be affected by Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and devastated large parts of the state.
At least 14 Odisha districts - Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Khurda, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Gajapati, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar - 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, who reviewed the preparedness on Wednesday evening, said there was a need to give special attention to pregnant women, children, elderly people and differently-abled persons.