Orissa and Andhra Pradesh (AP) on Friday braced for the “very severe” cyclone that is expected to hit the east coast with winds gusting up to 220 kmph on Saturday evening, as lakhs of people were being evacuated to safer places and the military kept on standby.
Cyclone Phailin — the biggest cyclone in years to hit Orissa — is expected to make landfall near Gopalpur in Ganjam district in the eastern state after crossing an area between Paradip in Orissa and Kalingapatnam in AP.
Five districts were in the eye of the storm with IMD chief Dr LS Rathore identifying Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in Orissa and Srikakalum in AP as those that are likely to be the worst hit.
Rathore said the cyclone storm over east central Bay of Bengal currently lay 450 km southeast of Gopalpur and warned that it will be accompanied by a storm surge of up to three metres in the districts that will bear the brunt.
“Cyclone Phailin is a very severe cyclone," Rathore said in Delhi. He added that the storm, which will hit the coast at 6 pm, is unlikely to develop into a super cyclone. Phailin was named by Thailand and it means sapphire in Thai.
“The US Navy has also forecast that the wind speed will be above 240 kmph. Therefore, the cyclone is not less than any super cyclone for us,” special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Mohapatra said the IMD had declared the 1999 calamity as a super cyclone as the wind speed had crossed 220 kmph. An estimated 9,885 people were killed in the super cyclone that pummelled the state. “This time around, the wind speed is not much different than the previous super cyclone," he said.
Squalls with a wind speed of 45-55 kmph to 65 kmph have already started along Orissa’s coast since morning under the impact of Phailin. About 25 cm of rain has been predicted in 24 hours in the affected districts due to the cyclone.
The state health department cancelled holidays and leave of all doctors in view of the impending situation even as the state government set a target of “zero casualty” and ordered speedy evacuation of people in seven coastal districts.
The East Coast Railway planned to regulate and cancel about 24 passenger trains between Visakhapatanam and Bhadrak on the Howrah-Chennai Main Line route on Saturday.
Authorities began evacuating 64,000 people from the