‘Amphan’ Turns Into Super Cyclone, To Cross West Bengal, Bangladesh Coasts On May 20
Damaged houses and grounded fishing boats stand along the coastline in Puri district of Odisha. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

‘Amphan’ Turns Into Super Cyclone, To Cross West Bengal, Bangladesh Coasts On May 20


Cyclone 'Amphan' intensified into a super cyclonic storm on Monday and is likely to move across northeast Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts between Digha and the Hatia island on May 20, the India Meteorological Department said.

“Amphan’ (pronounced UM-PUN) had turned into an extremely severe cyclonic storm and gathered more strength over Bay of Bengal while moving slowly towards the coast. It has now intensified further into a super cyclonic storm, the IMD said.

It lay centred around 780 km south of Paradip in Odisha, 930 km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal and 1,050 km south-southwest of Khepupara in Bangladesh, said HR Biswas, director of the meteorological centre in Bhubaneswar.

It is likely to move north-northeastwards and across northwest Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts between the sea resort of Digha (in West Bengal) and Hatia island (in Bangladesh) as very severe cyclonic storm, the department said.

The wind speed due to the supercyclone over the Bay of Bengal may go up to 230 kmph and even 265 kmph, but 'Amphan' will gradually weaken on the sea itself before its landfall on May 20, Biswas said.

This has raised the likelihood of heavy rains and high velocity winds in coastal Odisha from Monday evening and the state government has started evacuating people from vulnerable areas. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the sea till May 21, Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday chaired a high-level meeting to review the response preparedness against cyclone Amphan, developing in the Bay of Bengal. PM Modi took full stock of the situation and reviewed the measures as well as the evacuation plan presented by the National Disaster Response Force, a statement from the Prime Minister's Office said.

Supercyclone 'Amphan' comes a year after Cyclone Fani barrelled across vast areas of Odisha on May 3, 2019, claiming at least 64 lives and destroying vital infrastructure.

Under the impact of 'Amphan', heavy rainfall is likely in some places in coastal districts like Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara, Biswas said.

Jena said collectors of 12 coastal districts have been asked to evacuate people living in low-lying areas, thatched and mud houses or 'kutcha' structures.

People living within five kilometres of the coastline and in vulnerable areas will also be evacuated and the entire process completed by Tuesday. Arrangements have already been made to shift over 11 lakh people to cyclone shelters, he said.

Evacuation will be undertaken by strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines, he added.

The IMD said high-velocity winds might cause extensive damage to mud houses and partial damage to 'pucca' structures.

The calamity may also lead to bending or uprooting of power and communication poles, minor disruption for the Railways by affecting overhead power lines and signal systems, and also cause widespread damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards, it said.

Biswas said five districts - Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapara, Balasore and Jagatsinghpur - are likely to be affected by heavy rains and high speed winds.

Districts like Cuttack, Puri and Khurda are also expected to be affected, he said.

The SRC said there will be total suspension of fishing activity till May 20.

Officials said a total 27 disaster response teams - 10 units of NDRF and 17 of ODRAF - have been deployed in the districts likely to hit. Apart from local fire services, additional 30 teams have been mobilised.

Odisha Panchayati Raj Minister Pratap Jena said the state was prepared to evacuate 11 lakh to 12 lakh people if needed. Besides, generator sets and tankers have been arranged to ensure supply of drinking water in rural areas during the cyclone.

Pregnant women and ailing people will be shifted to hospitals, he said.

Director General of Police Abhay visited Balasore and Bharak districts to assess the situation. Other senior police officers are taking stock of the situation in Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur districts, officials said.

Senior officers of the Forest and other departments have also been mobilised, Jena said.

Emphasising that the Odisha government was aiming at zero casualty during the calamity, the SRC sought cooperation from all and requested the people to not leave their houses or cyclone centres until the effect of Amphan subsides.

Jena said the district collectors of Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurda and Nayagarh have been asked to be prepared to evacuate people.

"Greater attention is being given to the four districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore. We are keeping a close watch on these districts as the areas are likely to be more vulnerable," he added.

The Met department, which has issued an 'orange' warning for West Bengal, said 'Amphan' would have maximum sustained windspeed of 155-165 kmph before losing some steam ahead of its landfall in the afternoon or the evening of May 20.

The West Bengal government has issued a high alert in the coastal districts of East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and parts of Sunderbans and disaster management teams have been sent, a senior official said.

Relief materials, dry fruits and trampoline have been dispatched, he added.

"We are taking all measures to tackle any contingency. Special control rooms have been set up, and State Disaster Relief Force teams have been deployed. We are also making announcements through public address systems," the official said.

Quick response teams comprising trained civil defence volunteers and vehicles with necessary equipment have already reached the districts. The State Emergency Operation Centre, functioning at the state secretariat, is in constant touch with district EOCs, the officials said.

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