Bhubaneswar: As Cyclone Fani triggered downpour coupled with squally wind in coastal Odisha Thursday, the state government moved 11 lakh people to safety and advised the public to remain indoor on Friday, ahead of its landfall around 9.30 am close to Puri.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm moved menacingly close to the Odisha coast and will make the landfall in the morning, much before the earlier forecast of 3 pm.
Chief Secretary AP Padhi said the cyclone is likely to hit the coast very close to the Pilgrim town of Puri around 9.30 am Friday and the entire process of landfall will take four to five hours.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the people to remain indoors during this period, and said all arrangements have been made for the safety and security of the people.
Padhi warned people that remaining indoors during the entire landfall period is a must.
“There may be a lull before the storm, but it will be the most dangerous phase and people should be extremely careful and keep indoor,” he said.
All shops, business establishments, private and government offices except those associated with relief and rescue operations will remain closed in 11 coastal districts as a precautionary measure, he said.
The districts are Gajapati, Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, Naygarh, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore, he said.
Three more districts — Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar — may also face Fani’s impact.
Over 11 lakh people in 10,000 odd villages and 52 urban local bodies were shifted to cyclone shelters and other safe houses, officials said.
“The evacuation process, carried out on a war footing, is almost complete,” said an official.
Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens at the cyclone shelters. Around 4,000 such shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres, are housing the evacuees.
Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping for which two choppers requisitioned, Special Relief Commissioner B P Sethi said.
Fani is billed as the most severe cyclonic storm since the super cyclone of 1999 that claimed close to 10,000 lives and left a trail of destruction in vast swathes of the state, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
India Meteorological Department sources said it is also the first cyclonic storm of such severity to have formed in April in India’s oceanic neighbourhood in 43 years.
After crossing Odisha, the cyclone is likely to move towards West Bengal before tapering off. It is, however, still likely to impact parts of the northeast, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.