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Cyclone Amphan: Bengal govt evacuates 3 lakh people from coastal areas

East Midnapore, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, including Sunderbans, on high alert

By Our Bureau and Agencies in Calcutta
  • Published 19.05.20, 5:28 PM
  • Updated 19.05.20, 10:05 PM
  • 7 mins read
  •  
Dark clouds hover in the sky due to weather changes ahead of landfall by cyclone Amphan, in Calcutta, Tuesday, May 19, 2020 PTI

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said around three lakh people have been evacuated from the coastal areas in the state as super cyclone  Amphan moved towards Bengal and Odisha.

The evacuees, she said, have been shifted to cyclone shelters.

Authorities, however, were mindful of the difficulty they could face in ensuring social distancing norms at these shelters in the state, which has witnessed a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past few days.

"Indeed, there will be some problems but we will ensure that social distancing is maintained at cyclone centres," he said.

Banerjee said she will talk to the railways and ask it to not run Shramik Special trains to the state to bring back migrant labourers from Wednesday till Thursday morning as a precautionary measure.

Odisha is in a state of readiness to evacuate around 11 lakh people living in vulnerable areas, officials said. The process has already started and an unspecified number of people have been sheltered in cyclone centres.

Coastal districts of North and South 24 Parganas, and East Midnapore, including the ecologically fragile Sundarbans, in West Bengal face a serious threat of inundation and significant damage to life and property.

"The evacuees have been put up at cyclone shelters, schools and colleges. Our experience in tackling cyclone Fani and Bulbul last year will be put to good use," the state's disaster department minister Javed Khan said.

The government, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, has distributed more than two lakh masks among the evacuees, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) have been handed out to the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) personnel deployed in the vulnerable areas, a senior official said.

Super Cyclone Amphan over west-central Bay of Bengal, lay centered at 1730 hrs IST of today, over west-central Bay of Bengal near latitude 14.0°N and longitude 86.3 °E, about 700 km nearly south of Paradip (Odisha).
Super Cyclone Amphan over west-central Bay of Bengal, lay centered at 1730 hrs IST of today, over west-central Bay of Bengal near latitude 14.0°N and longitude 86.3 °E, about 700 km nearly south of Paradip (Odisha). PTI

Warnings issued for Kolkata and Howrah

Though coastal ares in Bengal will be the worst hit by Amphan, Kolkata and Howrah too will experience intense stormy weather. Heavy rain is expected from Wednesday morning, with windspeeds reaching 75-85 kmph in the afternoon. Maximum windspeeds will range between 110-130 kmph according the forecast issued by the director of India Meteorological Department, Calcutta Ganesh Kumar Das, reported Ananadabazar. The West Bengal government has asked all markets and shops to remain shut tomorrow, and citizens have been requested to stay indoors. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has taken into cognisance many old buildings marked as 'dangerous' which may get affected by the storm. 

Firhad Hakim, the cabinet minister of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs, Government of West Bengal, and the Mayor of Kolkata held a meeting with the various officials including controlling officers of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and state police departments. All big hoardings in the city have been ordered to be removed. Contingency plans have been drawn to deal with calamities like uprooted trees, collapsed electric poles etc. All lock gates connected tot he Ganga have been asked to be kept open, and measures are being taken to ensure that drainage systems don't get clogged and cause water stagnation due to heavy rain.

People walk in the rain due to weather changes ahead of landfall by cyclone Amphan, in Kolkata, Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
People walk in the rain due to weather changes ahead of landfall by cyclone Amphan, in Kolkata, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. PTI

Rapid response teams for Sunderbans tigers

West Bengal's forest department has formed rapid response teams to ensure that tigers from Sundarbans in South 24 Parganas do not stray into nearby human settlements.

Chief Wildlife Warden Ravi Kant Sinha said a control room has been set up at Gosaba to monitor the situation in the mangrove forests round-the-clock.

Rapid response teams have been deployed in Sajnekhali and Jharkhali in South 24 Parganas with tranquiliser guns, nets and speed boats to negotiate the creeks during urgency.

Indian Oil refinery, Haldia Petrochem plant put on high alert

Haldia Petrochemicals' plant and Indian Oil's refinery in East Midnapore district have been put on high alert in the wake of cyclone Amphan, which is expected to hit West Bengal coast on Wednesday.

Several measures have been taken by the Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) management in view of the cyclone, said its plant head Ashok Ghosh.

"We have decided not to take any power from the grid but will remain connected to it," he told PTI.

HPL will run additional compressors and cooling water units to support the process plants, Ghosh said, adding that all the drains within the premises of the factory have been cleaned.

He said nobody will stay in the plant except those in the control room.

All senior officers will be present at the plant site on Wednesday, he added.

Security arrangements have been intensified and the pipeline connecting the plant to the Haldia port will be continuously monitored, Ghosh said.

A spokesperson of the Indian Oil Corp said that a control room has been set up to monitor the situation round the clock and a special task force has also been formed in coordination with the district authorities.

The IOC is also coordinating with the port authorities for proper mooring of vessels meant for the refinery, he said.

The health, safety and environment department has been put on high alert, he said.

The cyclone is expected to make a landfall between Digha in East Midnapore district and Hatiya islands in Bangladesh on May 20, with a maximum sustained wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph.

Deputy Director-General of the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), Sanjib Bandyopadhyay and G K Das (R) monitor the progress of the cyclone ‘Amphan’ at RMC in Kolkata, Tuesday, May 19, 2020.
Deputy Director-General of the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC), Sanjib Bandyopadhyay and G K Das (R) monitor the progress of the cyclone ‘Amphan’ at RMC in Kolkata, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. PTI

Amphan weakens into extremely severe cyclonic storm

Super cyclone Amphan weakened into an extremely severe cyclonic storm over the west-central Bay of Bengal on Tuesday afternoon as it rolled towards the Indian shores in West Bengal and Odisha, where lakhs of people were evacuated from vulnerable areas and shifted to safety, officials said.

The two states are on high alert, as the cyclone, cramming high-velocity winds, triggered rains in several parts of Odisha.

An India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin said the cyclone lay centred over west-central Bay of Bengal, about 520km south of Paradip in Odisha and 670km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal. It was moving north-northeastwards at a speed of 14 kmph.

Amphan had turned into a super cyclonic storm from extremely severe cyclonic storm on Monday, only the second such tropical storm over the Bay of Bengal in two decades, before getting somewhat enfeebled. Odisha was savaged by a super cyclone in 1999 that had claimed around 10,000 lives.

As 'Amphan' rumbled towards the Indian coastline, the effect was felt in Puri, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Khurda districts of Odisha which witnessed light rain and wind. Both are set to intensify over Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cyclone is likely to make a landfall between Digha, some 180 km south of Kolkata in West Bengal, and Hatiya islands in Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon. The maximum sustained wind speed at the time of the landfall is likely to range between 155 and 165 kmph, gusting to 180 kmph.

IMD reported at 3:32pm on Monday that Super Cyclone Amphan to cross West Bengal, Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) close to Sundarbans during afternoon to evening of 20th May, 2020, with wind speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph.
IMD reported at 3:32pm on Monday that Super Cyclone Amphan to cross West Bengal, Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) close to Sundarbans during afternoon to evening of 20th May, 2020, with wind speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph. Twitter/@Indiametdept

Impact unlikely to be very severe in Odisha: IMD

Light rain was witnessed in several areas of Puri, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Khurda districts of Odisha, and the intensity of rainfall and wind speed was likely to increase gradually, a Met official said.

IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said since the super cyclone is gradually weakening, its impact is unlikely to be very severe on Odisha.

However, coastal districts like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore are likely to be battered by heavy rain coupled with high velocity winds from Tuesday evening, he said.

Several parts of Jajpur and Mayurbhanj districts are also expected to be lashed by torrential rain and high speed winds, he said. Wind speeds will be in the range of 110 kmph to 120 kmph and may even go up to 135 kmph in coastal regions of Odisha from Tuesday night till Wednesday.

Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena said evacuation of people living in low-lying areas, thatched and mud structures in the coastal districts is under progress and the process will be completed by evening.

He said the state government has made arrangements for evacuating over 11 lakh people as a precautionary measure.

Evacuation exercise is also being undertaken in some areas of Gajapati district in view of a possible landslide, he said.

As per IMD forecast, no abnormal storm surge is expected to occur due to the cyclone in Odisha, Jena said.

Fifteen units of National Disaster Response Force and 15 teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) have been deployed in the districts likely to be hit.

"We are in constant touch with the collectors of the 12 districts which have been put under alert in view of the cyclone. We are fully prepared to deal with any eventuality," Jena said

Chief Secretry A K Tripathy said four senior officers with vast experience in handling such calamities have been deputed to different districts on the direction of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik to supervise preparations and guide the local administration.

As high velocity winds may damage power infrastructure and roads, necessary equipment and manpower have been mobilised in order to ensure quick restoration in the affected areas, he said.

All fishermen along with boats and vessels have already returned from the seas and they have been advised not to venture out for fishing activities till May 21, the SRC said.

Fishermen pull their boat back to shore amidst rough sea, ahead of the landfall of cyclone Amphan, at Puri beach, Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Fishermen pull their boat back to shore amidst rough sea, ahead of the landfall of cyclone Amphan, at Puri beach, Tuesday, May 19, 2020 PTI

BSF moves ships, patrol boats to safe anchor

The Border Security Force (BSF) has moved its three floating border posts or ships and 45 other patrol boats deployed to guard the India-Bangladesh riverine front in the Sunderbans and Icchamati river in West Bengal to safe anchorage in view of the cyclonic storm 'Amphan', officials said.

These vessels are used by the south Bengal frontier of the border force to guard about 350 kms of the riverine border in this area.

The BSF protects over 930kms of the International Border under this frontier that includes 110 kms of the Sunderbans, Estuary Point, Icchamati river and Panitar, where the land and riverine borders of the two countries meet.

The three floating border posts or ships, 45 other patrol and mechanised boats have been moved for safe anchorage in view of cyclone 'Amphan'.

BSF deputy inspector-general (south Bengal frontier) S.S. Guleria told PTI that the troops who man these vessels will move to land border posts till the activity of the cyclone.

A team of experts like electricians, masons and engineering personnel have also been sent to the riverine border fronts so that they can help in reviving the damaged infrastructure as soon as possible, Guleria, who has earlier served in the NDRF, said.

Amit Shah assures help to Odisha, West Bengal

Union home minister Amit Shah on Tuesday spoke to chief ministers of West Bengal and Odisha, Mamata Banerjee and Navin Patnaik, respectively, and assured them of all possible help to deal with the situation arising out of the super cyclone 'Amphan', officials said.

During the telephonic conversation with Banerjee, Shah took stock of the situation in West Bengal, where the cyclone is expected to make landfall on Wednesday.

The home minister assured the chief minister of all possible help to deal with the situation arising due to the cyclone 'Amphan', a home ministry official said.

In his phone call with Patnaik, Shah reviewed the situation in Odisha and assured him of the necessary assistance from the central government to tide over the situation.