Bhubaneswar, Nov. 15: Authorities in Bengal and Orissa today scurried to evacuate tens of thousands of people from vulnerable coastal areas as a powerful cyclone producing winds up to a speed of 280 km per hour closed in.
Evacuation started from the vulnerable areas of the six coastal districts — Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Pune and Ganjam — after the weather office put them on high alert. The cyclone, christened SIDR, could trigger tidal waves of five to six metres above normal while crossing the Bengal-Bangladesh coast.
Steps for evacuation of the people from these areas were taken after receipt of an “orange message” from the Indian Meteorology Department, Orissa special relief commissioner N.K. Sundaray said.
“We have already shifted 30,000 people to safer places. Another 70,000 people are near the cyclone shelters who will be shifted at the shortest notice,” he said.
District collectors of the vulnerable districts were directed to execute the evacuation plan immediately and complete the exercise before sunset, Sundaray said.
Inhabitants residing within 10 km of the coast in Balasore district, which is closer to the Sagar island where Cyclone SIDR is likely to touch the land, were evacuated. Similarly, people residing within 9 km from the coast in Bhadrak district, 8 km in Kendrapara, 7 km in Jagatsinghpur, 6 km in Puri and 5 km from the coast in Ganjam district were shifted to safer places.
Sundaray said adequate lighting arrangements had been made at all cyclone shelters, gram panchayat godowns and identified school buildings. Inflatable tower lights were being used as a standard measure of night-time disaster management, said Sundaray, who is also the managing director of Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority.
Speaking to The Telegraph, S.C. Sahoo, director of Bhubaneswar meteorology centre, said Cyclone SIDR lay centred at around 250 km southeast of Paradip and was likely to cross the Bengal-Bangladesh coast east of the Sagar island by around midnight today. Gale wind speed reaching 120-150 km per hour were also likely to blow along and off the north Orissa coast.
Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea.
The Orissa government today declared November 16-17 as holiday for schools located in 14 cyclone-prone districts as a precautionary measure as there is likelihood of heavy rain and storm in the coastal belt.