Cyclone alert: Orissa evacuates thousands, West Bengal on guard


Kolkata/Bhubaneswar : With a severe cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal approaching the coastline Thursday, 20,000 people were evacuated in six districts of Orissa while an alert was issued in Kolkata and six districts of West Bengal.

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Meteorological department officials in West Bengal said a severe cyclone with a wind speed of 180 to 200 km per hour was rushing towards Kolkata and may hit the coastal areas of the state at midnight or Friday morning.

“A very severe cyclone with a wind speed of 180 to 200 km is bearing down heavily on the coastal zones of West Bengal and Bangladesh by Thursday midnight or Friday morning. Orissa could be affected as well. The cyclone – called Sidr – is presently 500 km south of Kolkata,” Alipur Met Office director Gokul Chandra Debnath told IANS.

He said heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely to lash Kolkata and the neighbouring districts from late Thursday evening.

“A high alert has been issued for coastal areas and also for Hooghly Port. We are expecting around 25 cm of rainfall in the coastal districts. Fishermen have been asked not to venture into the seas as the water level could rise by six to seven feet,” he said.

The state government immediately went into an alert mode with a high-level meeting convened by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Chief Secretary Amit Kiran Deb, Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray, senior administration and police officials attended the meeting.

“We have issued an alert for all the coastal districts, particularly Sagar Island in South 24-Parganas. I have also asked the district and police officials to be on alert. The centre has put the state on super cyclone alert. It is very serious,” the chief minister told reporters.

Ray said an alert has been sounded in six districts of South and North 24-Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly districts.

“Those living in kuccha (mud) houses or temporary shelters in these districts have been asked to shift to safer places like nearby schools and colleges. All the leave of government officials in the coastal districts has been cancelled,” Ray said.

The Shipping Corporation of India has indefinitely postponed departures from Kolkata port, reports said.

In Bhubaneswar, Orissa relief commissioner N.K. Sundarray told IANS: “We have evacuated people from the villages, mostly located within the distance of five kilometres from the sea.”

Sidr is expected to trigger heavy rainfall and cause high tides late Thursday in Orissa’s four coastal districts, met officials said.

Rain or thundershower is likely to occur in most coastal areas with isolated extremely heavy rainfall in north Orissa causing floods in low lying areas.

Under the influence of the cyclone, five to six metres high tidal waves are likely in coastal areas of Orissa’s Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts. Gale winds with speeds reaching 90-120 kmph are also likely to blow over the coastal areas, the meteorological official said.

Fishermen have been warned not to venture into the sea because it will remain rough.

Cautionary signal number Three (LC-III) has been hoisted at Paradeep, Gopalpur, Chandbali and Puri ports, Gouda said.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has instructed the district administration of the eight coastal districts to remain alert, a state revenue official said.

The US Consulate in Kolkata has issued a warning for American citizens living or travelling in the coastal areas of West Bengal and Orissa.

“This message is to update US citizens residing or travelling in Orissa and West Bengal regions of India of developments regarding cyclone Sidr, which is in the Bay of Bengal and headed towards the northern Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh,” a statement issued by the consulate said.

“The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre forecasts the cyclone could make landfall as early as Thursday evening. The Tropical Storm Risk Centre has now classified cyclone Sidr as a category four storm with forecasted wind gusts of up to 225-280 kmph,” it said.

The consulate will remain closed Friday due to anticipated severe weather conditions and flooding. But it will remain open to provide emergency services to American citizens, an official said.

According to official estimates, the super cyclone that had hit the coastal areas of Orissa on Oct 29, 1999 had killed about 10,000 people and left 15 million homeless. Large swathes of the state’s farmland were also destroyed.