The India Meteorological Department on Monday said that a deep depression over the Bay of Bengal had intensified into a “cyclonic storm”. The cyclone, named Yaas, was likely to further intensify into a “severe cyclonic storm” by Tuesday. Following this, it was expected to transform to a “very severe cyclonic storm” within 24 hours.
The weather agency said that Yaas was likely to reach north Odisha and West Bengal coasts on Wednesday morning.
“It is very likely to cross north Odisha-West Bengal coasts between Paradip and Sagar islands around noon of 26th May as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm,” the afternoon bulletin read.
The cyclone was centred over Bay of Bengal, about 490 km south-southeast of Paradip in Odisha, 590 km south-southeast of Balasore in Odisha and 580 km south-southeast of Digha in West Bengal, as of 2.30 pm on Monday.
The IMD forecasted that tidal waves of a height of 2 metres to 4 metres above astronomical tide were likely to inundate low-lying coastal areas in Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas and Medinipur areas.
The India Meteorological Department advised fisherfolk not to venture into southeast and east central Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and along and off Andaman and Nicobar Islands between May 22 and May 24. It also advised the fishing community to avoid central Bay of Bengal from Sunday till May 25 and north Bay of Bengal off West Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh coasts from May 24 to May 26.
Cyclone Yaas is set to hit days after another cyclone, Tauktae, wreaked havoc in states, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, leading to around 57 deaths in the two states.
The Odisha government deployed rescue teams to Balasore, where Yaas is expected to make landfall, and had begun to evacuate residents from vulnerable areas, a senior official said, PTI reported.
Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said that the government had also deployed 22 teams of the National Disaster Response Force, 50 teams of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, 150 personnel from fire services teams and 35 teams to cut trees in vulnerable districts, anticipating maximum impact of the cyclone. The state has asked for 30 more NDRF teams, he added.
“The process of evacuation has already begun in the state and would be completed by Tuesday afternoon,” Jena said, adding that the massive evacuation drive will focus on low-lying areas and vulnerable storm-surge pockets. “The government is determined to ensure zero casualty in the cyclone.”
Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapara, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Jagastinghpur districts were identified as high-risk zones. Officials in the districts of Cuttack, Puri, Khura, Nayagarh and Dhenkanal have also been put on alert.
NDRF Director General SN Pradhan said: “We already have 22 NDRF teams in Odisha and 10 more are being airlifted from other parts of the country as per the requisition made by the Odisha government.”
The Odisha government on Monday relaxed the lockdown imposed in the state to allow shops to remain open in 10 coastal districts from 7 am to 1 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. The decision was taken to give residents get more time to buy essential items before the impact of the cyclone.
“There has been adequate buffer stock of medicine and oxygen in Covid hospitals and Covid Care Centres located in the cyclone-prone districts,” Jena added. “The districts were also given standby power in case electric lines are snapped.”
The West Bengal government opened control rooms at the state Secretariat to monitor the cyclone and its aftermath, PTI reported, citing an official.
East and West Medinipur and South and North 24 Parganas districts along with Howrah and Hooghly were expected to get light to moderate rainfall in most places with heavy to very heavy downpour at one or two areas from Tuesday, a weather department official said.
The intensity of rain would intensify into extremely heavy rainfall in some areas, including Jhargram, East and West Medinipur, North and South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Kolkata.
On Monday evening, the National Disaster Response Force evacuated 50 residents from Digha, a coastal town in East Medinipur, ANI reported.
The Kolkata Port will suspend shipping movement from Tuesday, PTI reported. Entry of ships will be stopped on Tuesday morning, while cargo handling will be stopped at 2 pm.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the Centre of allotting the state a smaller fund than Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the Hindustan Times reported.
“They have announced an advance fund of Rs 600 crore each to Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and a little more than Rs 400 for West Bengal,” she said, according to the newspaper. “I have questioned why Bengal was being deprived despite being a larger state with a dense population.
Banerjee added that she asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah why her state was being discriminated against. “He [Shah] said that he would talk later and that that allocation was based on scientific views,” the West Bengal chief minister added.
Amit Shah holds review meeting
Shah held a meeting with the chief ministers of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and the lieutenant governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands on Monday to review their preparedness.
“Shah reviewed and reiterated to the States/ UT administrations to make adequate power backup arrangements in all Covid-19 hospitals, labs, vaccine cold chains and other medical facilities,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. “Further, he advised them to ensure adequate stocks of all essential medicines and supplies in hospitals, keeping in view likely disruption of movement of vehicles.”
The Union home minister also reviewed the impact of the cyclone on oxygen generation plants located in West Bengal, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
“He [Shah] advised them to make advance planning for keeping a buffer stock of oxygen for two days and movement of oxygen tankers to allocated states, so that in case of any disruption, supply to allocated states is not impacted,” the ministry said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting on Sunday with various central ministries and agencies to review the preparedness of the states. On Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Jagat Prakash Nadda said that he will interact with MPs and party workers in states that would be affected by Yaas.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Railways cancelled 25 trains between May 24 and May 29 as a precautionary measure.