Odisha evacuates 3 lakh people as cyclone approaches

Bhubaneswar: With cyclone Phailin expected to make landfall in Odisha this evening, the state government mounted a massive operation and evacuated about three lakh people from six coastal districts, officials here said.
Nearly a lakh of people have already been evacuated from Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts, they said.
Cyclone Phailin is about 260km away from Gopalpur and is expected to make landfall at 6 pm, said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director, cyclone warning division, IMD, New Delhi.

Officials said clearing, forwarding, loading and unloading operations have been suspended at Paradip port and seven vessels have been shifted to the sea from the dockyard area.

The wind speed has reached 45-55 kmph and gusting to 65 kmph already along and off the Odisha coast, it said.

"It will increase in intensity with gale wind speed reaching 210-220 kmph along and off coastal districts of south Odisha at the time of landfall," the IMD said.

The sea off the coast would be rough to very rough and would become gradually phenomenal on October 12, it warned.

It said many parts of coastal districts experienced rain, including heavy to very heavy, which would progress to interior areas from October 12 night.

The state government which has targeted zero casualty this time in the backdrop of 9885 deaths during the 1999 cyclone, has decided to evacuate people much ahead, Chief Secretary JK Mohapatra said.

He said that the state government does not consider the impending calamity as less than the super cyclone of 1999.

Around three columns or 300 personnel of the army's engineering wing are en route to the state and 12 air force helicopters are ready at the Barrackpore airbase in neighbouring West Bengal, Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra said.

Also 29 marine rescue teams and 30 navy doctors are headed to the state for rescue and relief operation with the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRF), he said.