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Cyclone Fani to make landfall in Odisha's Puri today, 11 lakh evacuated; Bengal, Andhra on alert

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Bhubaneswar, May 03: The extremely severe cyclonic storm Cyclone Fani is expected to cross Odisha Coast and will make the landfall in the morning on May 3.

Just before striking the coast, it would weaken slightly and make landfall as a very severe cyclonic storm near Puri. 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.

Cyclone Fani to make landfall in Odisha

By late afternoon, rain belt will cover Gangetic West Bengal, many parts of Jharkhand and East Bihar. These areas will also witness moderate to heavy rains.

[ Cyclone Fani: A look at some of the deadliest cyclones in India ]

Chief Secretary A P Padhi said the cyclone is likely to hit the coast very close to the pilgrim town of Puri around 9.30 am on Friday and the entire process of landfall will take four to five hours.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the people to remain indoor during this period, and said all arrangements have been made for the safety and security of the people.

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.

Moderate to heavy rainfall accompanied by squally wind have begun in several of these districts and the sea got increasingly rough.

With a few hours left for cyclone Fani to hit the coast, over 11 lakh people in 10,000 odd villages and 52 urban local bodies were shifted to cyclone shelters and other safe houses. 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.

Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard have already been put on high alert to meet any eventuality. Personnel of National Disaster Response Force, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire service have also been deployed in vulnerable areas. Leave of all doctors and health officials have been cancelled till May 15, Padhi said.

State police chief R P Sharma said leave of all police personnel have been cancelled.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with top officials and reviewed the preparedness to tackle the situation that might arise once the cyclone makes the landfall.

The Railways said a large number trains have been cancelled as a precautionary measure. "Emergency control is to operate round-the-clock with helpline number for guiding passengers. No staff is to be allowed to go on leave for the next three days," it said in New Delhi.

The East Coast Railway has cancelled over 147 trains till May 4, an ECoR official said in Bhubaneswar.

Three special trains were run from Puri to Howrah and Shalimar in West Bengal on Thursday to facilitate the evacuation of tourists, he said, adding that train services between Bhadrak and Vizianagaram stood cancelled for at least two days from Thursday evening.

Flight operations from Bhubaneswar airport is also suspended for 24 hours from Thursday midnight.

"Alerted all concerned to be ready to deal with Cyclone Fani. Airport Authority of India issued alert to all coastal airports to ensure all precautions, SOPs put in place immediately," Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said in tweet.

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.

There is forecast of massive tides that could surge up to 1.5 metres during the landfall. Fishermen have been advised against venturing into the sea.

(with PTI inputs)

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