Satellite imagery of cyclone Fani taken on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. (Source: Skymet)

Cyclone Fani: Massive Evacuation Operation Underway In Odisha

A massive operation was launched in Odisha today to evacuate over eight lakh people from low-lying coastal areas as the extremely severe cyclonic storm 'Fani' moved closer to the eastern coast, officials said.

As per the latest bulletin of the India Meteorological Department, Fani lay centred over West Central Bay of Bengal about 430 kilometer south-southwest of Puri in Odisha, 225 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and 650 km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal.

It is likely to move north-northeastwards and cross the Odisha coast near Puri on May 3 evening with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph and gusting up to 200 kmph, Special Relief Commissioner BP Sethi said.

The cyclone is being tracked by Doppler Weather Radars at Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Machilipatnam, the SRC said.

People from low-lying and vulnerable areas of coastal districts are being shifted to safe places such as 880 cyclone centres, school and college buildings and other structures, he said.

According to the SRC, the evacuation of eight lakh people is the largest-ever evacuation operation in the country.

At least 14 Odisha districts - Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Khurda, Jajpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Gajapati, Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar - are likely to bear the brunt of the cyclone, which is also likely to impact Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Emphasising that every life is precious, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the preparedness on Wednesday evening, said there was a need to give special attention to pregnant women, children, elderly people and differently-abled persons.

Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens to provide cooked food to the evacuees, the SRC said.

Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping in the areas to be affected by Fani, the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and devastated large parts of the state.

Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire service have been sent to vulnerable areas to assist the administration, an official said.