Lakhs shifted as 'very severe' cyclone set to hit Odisha, AP

Lakhs shifted as 'very severe' cyclone set to hit Odisha, AP

Around seven lakh people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are being evacuated to safer places with Phailin turning into a “very severe” cyclone. It has been described as the biggest-ever evacuation drive post-independence.

Phailin is expected to hit Gopalpur in Ganjam district of Odisha on Saturday at 220 kmph or above. The sea-level may rise three metres above the natural tide-level, inundating the coast.

Armed forces have been put on a high alert in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh even as reinforcements are being brought in from adjacent areas for rescue and relief operations.   

“It will be no less than a super cyclone. Yes, you can say this is the biggest-ever evacuation exercise conducted in the state,” Odisha Special Relief Commissioner Pradipta Mohapatra told Deccan Herald.

The government plans to evacuate nearly six lakh people from seven districts, including 1.4 lakh from Ganjam district. They will be housed at cyclone and flood relief centres, schools, colleges and other concrete government buildings. “We are trying to avoid any casualty. Therefore, maximum people will be shifted to safer places. People living in thatched houses will be forcibly evacuated,” Mohapatra said.
The Odisha government fears that 23 of the 30 districts will be affected by Phailin. Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Nayagarh, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts are likely to be the worst hit.

In Andhra Pradesh, more than 65,000 people have already been evacuated. In Srikakulam, 237 villages were identified as vulnerable. The 355-km stretch along the three north coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam is bracing for what could be a bigger disaster than Cyclone Nilam, which hit the state in November 2012.

In New Delhi, National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman Shashidhar Reddy said over 1,600 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel have been sent to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

“Fourteen teams (559 personnel and 37 boats) have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh and 23 teams (950 personnel and 80 boats) in Odisha,” Reddy said.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) described Phailin as a “very severe” cyclone. It was not right to call it a super cyclone yet. “A super cyclone is above 220 kmph and gusting up to 250 kmph, so this is touch and go. We are monitoring closely and don’t expect further intensification yet,” said IMD Director-General L S Rathore.

Meanwhile, agencies reported that a meteorologist has warned that Phailin could be worse than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of the United States in 2005.
Both London-based Tropical Storm and the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre have forecast winds reaching 315 kmph on landfall, classifying Phailin as a Category 5 storm, the most powerful.

“Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting. A recent satellite estimate put Phailin’s current intensity on a par with Hurricane Katrina,” said Eric Holthaus, meteorologist at Quartz, a US-based online magazine.

“Everything I know as a meteorologist tells me this is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, among the strongest on earth in 2013. That would mean Phailin could be the strongest cyclone ever measured in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

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