Alert sounded in WB coastal districts, disaster management officials deployed
Kolkata, May 2: As Cyclone Fani moves closer to the east coast, the West Bengal government on Thursday sounded alert in several coastal districts and the state capital Kolkata, asking the public to leave seaside destinations and directing fishermen to not venture into the sea.
Schools have been ordered closed and people asked to move to safer places as the extremely severe cyclonic storm makes the landfall in Puri in Odisha Friday morning. A senior official said alert was sounded in West Midnapore, North 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hoogly districts, in Jhargram and the Sundarbans, besides Kolkata.
The government has been making public announcements in seaside destinations of Digha, Shankarpur, Tajpur and Mandarmani in East Midnapore and Bakkhali in South 24 Parganas for people to move to safer areas, he said. "Cyclone Fani's wind speed is expected to reach 120 kmph and may cause widespread damage. People living in mud houses have been evacuated. Hotels on beaches have been asked to cancel bookings and tourists are being asked to return," a disaster management department official said.
Disaster response force personnel have been deployed in areas likely to be impacted by the cyclone. Fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea and plying of boats and ferry services have been suspended on May 3 and May 4 in all the districts where precautions are being taken, he said. Authorities in Kolkata said they were removing hoardings vulnerable to the Fani's impact. "A 24x7 control room has been set up to monitor the situation," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said. She said she will be staying at Kharagpur in West Midnapore district for the next two days to oversee the rescue operation. At the state secretariat, the official said a committee has been formed under Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De to monitor the impact of the cyclone. De held a meeting with senior officials of disaster management department, security officials, representatives of the Army, Navy and the state police to discuss the measures to deal with with the situation after Fani's crosses the region. "Around 10,000 tarpaulin sheets have been distributed among the inhabitants and announcements has been started in all the villages of the districts likely to be affected for the awareness of the people," state Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan told PTI. People have been advised to stock up food items, necessary medicines and drinking water, an official said. "We have readied all form of relief materials, water pouches, medicines. Adequate allotment of relief materials has been made to all districts. Six National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed at Digha in East Midnapore, Kakdwip and Dhamakhali in South 24 Parganas, Basirhat in North 24 Parganas, Kharagpur in West Midnapore and Sankrail in Howrah," the official said. Emergency helpline 1070 has been set up, he said. Special night patrolling at vulnerable locations is under way.
Four State Disaster Response Force teams have been moved to Basanti in South 24 Parganas district, Contai and Haldia in East Midnapore and Arambagh in Hooghly district, he said adding the PWD, fisheries, irrigation, power and PHE departments have opened control rooms to provide emergency support in there.
South Eastern Railway has cancelled at least six trains between Kolkata and Puri and is running three special trains to move out passengers from the temple town to safer places, an SER official said. Buses were being arranged for passengers returning from Puri to head to their respective destinations, he said.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has directed its engineers to remain on high alert. City Mayor Firhad Hakim said pumping stations have been asked to drain out water and leave of KMC employees have been cancelled. "We have asked people staying in dilapidated buildings to move out," Hakim said.
Kolkata Port Trust spokesperson Sanjay Kumar Mukherjee said shipping will be suspended from Thursday night till the cyclone tapers off. All ships in the Kolkata Dock System and Haldia Dock Complex have been specifically advised to take precautionary measures, he said.
"Two control stations have been opened with required facilities, one at Kolkata and other at Haldia and will be maintained around the clock," KoPT officials said, adding they would be coordinating with DG shipping, Coast Guard and state disaster centre. Director General of Civial Aviation said operations at the Kolkata airport will remain suspended on Friday and Saturday. Kaushik Bhattacharya, the director of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, said leave of all the AAI employees have been cancelled from Friday.