Fishing boats berthed on a beach near Puri on Thursday following a cyclone alert. Picture by Sarat Patra
Oct. 10: The weatherman today held out hope for Puja revellers in Calcutta saying the cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal was unlikely to cause anything beyond “moderate showers” in the city, that too only on Ashtami night and Navami morning.
However, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are likely to bear the brunt, with the cyclonic storm expected to strike the Odisha coast on Saturday (Ashtami) evening with wind speeds of 185kmph and two-metre-tall storm surge waves.
“Expect clear skies over Calcutta on Saptami and Ashtami,” said Devendra Pradhan, deputy director-general of meteorology, Alipore.
“There is a chance of rainfall from late evening on Ashtami and on Navami morning. From Dashami, however, the sky will clear once more.”
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) in New Delhi confirmed that it expected “intermittent” showers in Calcutta on Sunday (Navami) but heavy rain along a 3,000km coastal stretch from Andhra to Gangetic Bengal.
It said the storm, named Phailin, intensified today into a “very severe cyclonic storm”. The IMD predicted the landfall would occur near Gopalpur in Odisha, 515km from Calcutta, but said it would issue a fresh forecast on Friday evening with greater confidence about the landfall zone.
Many of the seaside spots popular among tourists from Calcutta, especially perennial favourite Puri, face a threat from the cyclonic storm. Puri is just 115km from Gopalpur.
A weather scientist said wind speeds could reach 130-140kmph in Puri, and while permanent structures faced no risk, jhopris could be blown away and trees uprooted.
“Tourists in Puri and other spots along the Odisha and Andhra coasts should be cautious. They should not go to the beach as the waves are likely to swell. When the winds pick up, they should be inside their hotels or guesthouses,” Pradhan said.
At Gopalpur, hotels have been cancelling all bookings for October 12 through 14 under instructions from Ganjam district authorities.
“We are calling up our guests to inform them,” said Premanand Sutar, manager of Mayfair Hotels and Resorts in Gopalpur. He said the guests would be relocated to the hotel chain’s two properties in Bhubaneswar if they wanted.
Of the hotel’s 45 rooms, 25 had been booked by tourists from Calcutta. The group’s 34-room hotel in Puri has 60 per cent bookings from Calcutta.
“Many people have been calling us to ask if they should cancel their bookings,” a hotel official said. Digha is likely to face heavy rainfall too.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has urged state government workers in Andhra Pradesh to call off their agitation (against the division of the state) in view of the approaching cyclonic storm.
The IMD has said Odisha and northern Andhra should expect extensive damage to kutcha houses, partial disruption of power and communication lines, and some disruption of railway and road traffic.
“We expect the winds to cause flying debris and the rain and storm surges to cause widespread inundation,” IMD director-general Laxman Singh Rathore said.
The sea off Odisha, Andhra and Bengal will turn very rough on Friday and Saturday, and the IMD has issued advisories urging fisher-folk out in the sea to return to the coast.
“The most severe impacts are likely to occur along a 100km stretch of the coast north and south of the landfall zone,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director of the cyclone warning division at the IMD, New Delhi.
While Phailin’s — a name suggested by Thailand — wind speeds are still increasing by about 10kmph every three hours, the storm is unlikely to match the supercyclone of 1999 that ravaged Odisha.
The supercyclone had wind speeds of about 220kmph, while the highest wind speeds from Phailin are expected to be about 200kmph, Mohapatra said.
Phailin’s storm surges are likely to be two metres high in contrast to the supercyclone’s six-metre-tall storm surges.
The NDMA said it had mobilised 28 disaster response teams for Odisha and 15 for Andhra. Each disaster response team has 35 to 45 personnel trained for rescue and recovery operations.
“We’ve also asked the Union health ministry to prepare medical teams to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone,” said Vinod Duggal, an NDMA member.
The IMD said it planned to issue cyclone warning bulletins through its website (www.imd.gov.in) with details of the coastal districts likely to be affected by the cyclone.