Hours before cyclone ‘Gulab’ makes landfall in Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday set a “zero casualty” target in the vulnerable districts of the state, where rainfall activity started in the southern and coastal regions under the influence of the weather system.
The cyclone, the second to hit the state in four months after ‘Yaas’ wreaked havoc in May, is likely to make landfall between Gopalpur and Kalingapatanam in Andhra Pradesh around midnight, the India Meteorological Department said.
It lay centered about 125 km southeast of Gopalpur and 160 km east of Kalingapatnam, the Met office said, adding, the system is moving at a speed of 18 kmph in the sea.
“It is likely to move nearly westwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh-south Odisha coasts… with maximum sustained wind speed of 75-85 kmph gusting to 95 kmph, around midnight of today. The landfall process will commence from late evening of Sunday,” the IMD said, while issuing a ‘Red Message’ (extreme rain).
Taking the stock of the preparedness virtually from New Delhi, Patnaik said all efforts should be made to protect each and every person in the seven identified districts of Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Koraput, Rayagada, Nabarangpur and Malkangiri.
During his discussion with the collectors of 11 districts, he said that the cyclone’s trajectory is located in an “unconventional region”, and the authorities should take extra precaution.
Though the coastal belt of the state has encountered numerous cyclones earlier, the natural phenomenon is new for people in the seven districts.
“The CM has appealed to the people to remain indoors, particularly in pucca houses from Sunday evening till 10 am of Monday during which the cyclone will pass through the region,” Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena told reporters.
He directed the authorities to complete evacuation activities by 4 pm and shift people from landslide-prone areas, low-lying regions and kutchha houses, as the cyclone is expected to dump extremely heavy rain along with high-velocity winds. Jena said all educational institutions in the cyclone trajectory would remain closed on Monday.
The Odisha government has already mobilised men and machinery, and launched an evacuation drive in the seven identified districts in the southern parts of the state.
As many as 42 teams of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and 24 squads of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), along with about 102 teams of fire brigade personnel, have been dispatched to these places. Ganjam is expected to be severely affected by the cyclonic storm, and 15 rescue teams have been deployed in that area alone, Jena said.
Besides, 11 fire service units, six teams of the ODRAF and eight of the NDRF are on standby for emergency purposes. The state has also taken special measures after the IMD warned of a tidal surge up to half a metre during landfall of the cyclone.
People living in sea-side villages in Ganjam district are being evacuated and the process is likely to be completed by afternoon, a district administration official said.
“Tidal wave of about 0.5 m height above the astronomical tide likely to inundate low-lying areas of Srikakulam, Sompeta, Vizianagaram, Ganjam districts during the time of landfall,” the IMD said in its bulletin.
Those residing in kuchha houses have also been shifted to safety, the official said.
Over the next three days, the sea condition will be rough to very rough and fishermen in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have been asked to not venture into east-central and adjoining northeast Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
Jena said a few of them trapped in mid-sea were rescued by personnel of the Indian Coast Guard in Paradip. He said the water resources department has been asked to keep adequate space in several reservoirs in the southern districts in order to accommodate the excess water due to the extremely heavy rainfall.
The SRC also said the district administrations have been asked to maintain COVID-19 guidelines during evacuation and provide face masks to people being shifted to shelter camps.