Phailin snowballs into super cyclone

Phailin snowballs into super cyclone

Cyclone Phailin has assumed the proportion of a super cyclone in the last 24 hours. Armed forces have been put on high alert in the coastal states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh even as reinforcements are being brought in from adjacent areas.

A very severe cyclonic storm is all set to hit Gopalpur on Saturday at about 220 kmph or above. The Indian Meteorological Department said cyclones crossing the 220 kmph mark are categorised as super cyclones.

The storm surge will cause the sea level to rise three metres above the natural tide level, inundating the coast.

In 1999, Odisha was hit by a 260-kmph super cyclone which lifted the sea level by 6 metres.

While weather models predicted a landfall speed of 175-185 kmph on Thursday, the speed was predicted to be between 210-220 kmph a day later, suggesting that the cyclone was gathering strength every passing hour.

Four districts in Odisha – Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur – besides Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh would be the worst hit.

The storm is gaining 10 kmph every three hours. Thus, Phailin could turn massive by the time of the landfall. Buildings, standing crops and power and communication lines are likely to bear the brunt.

Anticipating major damage, Defence Minister A K Antony on Friday asked the three services to be on alert. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Central Reserve Police Force personnel have already been positioned, in addition to the forces at the disposal of the state government.

Two Indian Air Force IL-76 carriers arrived at Bhubaneswar on Friday with NDRF teams and equipment. Other IAF assets are on standby at Raipur, Nagpur, Jagdalpur, Barrackpore, Ranchi and Gwalior.

The IAF has committed two C130J Super Hercules aircraft, 18 helicopters, including Mi -17V5s and two AN-32s for the operations.

The aircraft have been positioned to move at short notice, said a Defence Ministry official. A task force has been positioned at Barrackpore.

Vishakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command have kept multiple diving teams with inflatable rafts on standby at important locations. The Navy has kept its Chetak and UH-3H helicopters ready for rescue and relief operations.

The Army has moved its command and control element to Bhubaneswar under the General Officer Commanding Madhya Bharat in Bhopal. One engineer column from Bagdogra and a medical column from Gopalpur have started moving towards Bhubaneswar. Infantry columns are on standby at Barrackpore.

Coast Guard units in West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have also been kept on high alert. 

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