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India braces to fight cyclone Amphan— PM chairs meet, NDRF deployed in Odisha, WB

National Disaster Response Force personnel deployed in Odisha and West Bengal are ready to evacuate 11 lakh people likely to be severely hit by cyclone 'Amphan'.

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Bubaneswar/Kolkata/New Delhi: Personnel of the NDRF were deployed on Sunday in West Bengal and Odisha, which said it was ready to undertake massive evacuation of 11 lakh people likely to be severely hit by the cyclone ‘Amphan’, officials said.

The cyclone, according to an IMD report, has intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal. It is likely to make a landfall somewhere between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya Islands in Bangladesh on Wednesday.

“The trajectory is mostly towards West Bengal, Sagar Islands and probably towards Bangladesh…. But we have to watch the trajectory very closely. NDRF has deployed the teams well in advance. They are either deployed or moving towards the destination,” S N Pradhan, the chief of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said in New Delhi.

As it rolls in towards the Indian shores ominously, the cyclone is likely to unleash heavy rain and high-velocity winds in large swathes of coastal Odisha and West Bengal.

It is likely to cross West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts between Sagar Islands in West Bengal and Hatiya islands in Bangladesh between afternoon and evening of 20 May as a very severe cyclonic storm, Regional MeT Director in Kolkata G K Das said.

Odisha, which has been ravaged by a string of cyclones over the last few years, including the cyclone Fani last year, has made arrangements to shift 11 lakh people from vulnerable areas, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena said.

Twelve coastal districts — Ganjam, Gajapti, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurda and Nayagarh– are on high alert.

He said of the 809 cyclone shelters in the 12 coastal districts, 242 are currently being used as temporary medical camps for the returnees from different states amid the COVID- 19 lockdown.

“We have 567 cyclone and flood shelters available to house the people in case evacuation is required. In addition, we have arranged 7,092 buildings to keep people if required,” Jena said.

Also read: Why Odisha is in the eye of a storm more often than other east coast states

“Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), NDRF and fire service personnel have already been sent to the districts. We are also in constant touch with the Indian Coast Guard, IMD and NDRF for any requirement,” he said, adding “saving lives is our priority”.

Pradhan said seven teams of the force have been deployed in West Bengal. These teams are in six districts — South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly.

In Odisha, 10 teams have been deployed in seven districts — Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj.

One team of NDRF consists of around 45 personnel.

Odisha has already chalked out the strategy to restore power and water supply, clear roads, start rescue and relief operations immediately after the cyclone peters out.

On migrants returning to the state and also travelling through it, Jena said that in view of the impending cyclone, the state government will stop road movement for three days from the evening of 18 May to 20 May.

The district collectors have been asked to direct the border checkposts not to allow entry of anyone during the period, he said.

Unlike past cyclones when the evacuees were kept in large numbers at cyclone shelters, it will be different this time as around 11 lakh people will have to be accommodated while maintaining the social distancing guidelines in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jena said.

Amphan may attain a maximum wind speed of 170 to 180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph, Das said.

Fishermen have been advised not to venture into north Bay of Bengal along and off West Bengal-Odisha coasts from May 18 to 21 and those who are out in the sea, were asked to return to shore by May 17.

West Bengal Home secretary Alapan Bandopdhyay said that the entire state machinery is prepared to deal with the situation.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has also prepared itself for maritime search and rescue operations.

The railways said the AC special trains between New Delhi and Bhubaneswar will be diverted for four days from Monday. The trains will travel on diverted route via Bhubaneswar-Angul-Sambalpur City-Jharsuguda-Rourkela-Tata route, bypassing Bhadrak-Balasore-Hijli track during the period.

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met under Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Saturday to review the preparedness for minimising the loss of loss of lives and property at a time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

Also read: Indian Ocean is spawning deadly tropical cyclones for a reason

PM Chairs high level meet 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a high-level meeting Monday review the situation arising out of cyclone ‘Amphan’, which is likely to hit the eastern coast.

Union Minister Amit Shah said the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Disaster Management Authority will take place at 4 pm.

“To review the arising cyclone situation in various parts of the country, PM @narendramodi ji will chair a high level meeting with MHA & NDMA, today at 4pm,” Shah tweeted.

The Prime Minister is the chairman of the NDMA.

In an advisory to West Bengal and Odisha governments, the ministry has said ‘Amphan’ (pronounced as UM-PUN) was spotted on Monday morning over the central parts of South Bay of Bengal and the adjoining central Bay of Bengal.

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