Bhubaneswar, May 20 (PTI) As cyclone “Amphan” hurtled towards the coast, heavy downpour coupled with high-velocity winds pounded coastal Odisha, uprooting trees and flattening fragile structures, officials said on Wednesday.
More than 1.25 lakh people have so far been evacuated from low-lying coastal areas and the process of evacuation was still underway in some places like Balasore on Wednesday morning, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), P K Jena, said
Intense rainfall was recorded in several areas of Puri, Khurda, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Ganjam, Ganjam, Bhadrak and Balasore districts since Tuesday, officials said.
The extremely severe cyclonic storm lay about 120 km east-southeast of Paradip in Odisha, 200 km south of Digha (West Bengal) and 360 km southwest of Khepupara (Bangladesh), said H R Biswas, the Director of the Meteorological Centre, Bhubaneswar.
The current intensity of wind speed near the center of the system stood at 170 to 180 mph, while the wind velocity near Paradip was 102 kmph. Near Chandbali the wind speed was 74 mph, he said.
It is likely to move north-northeastwards across the northwest Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal Bangladesh coasts between Digha (West Bengal) and Hatiya Islands (Bangladesh) close to Sunderbans during evening hours of Wednesday, with a maximum sustained wind speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph.
The system is now being continuously tracked by the Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) at Vishakhapatnam, Paradip, and Gopalpur, he said.
Jena said Paradip recorded 214 mm of rainfall since Tuesday, while it was 87 mm in Puri, 70.5 mm in Chandbali, 58.5 mm in Balasore, and 50 mm in Bhubaneswar as heavy downpour battered many parts of coastal Odisha.
People living in thatched, mud, and ‘kucha’ structures are being persuaded to move to the cyclone shelters for their safety, he said, adding that many people were initially reluctant to shift in view of COVID-19 scare.
While a thorough assessment of the damage caused by the cyclone will be made, there are reports of many trees being uprooted from different areas including Erasama and Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.
Many betel vines have also been damaged in Dhinkia area of Jagatsinghpur district, the SRC said, adding response teams have been deployed in all the coastal districts to ensure quick restoration of power and road communication wherever they suffer damage.
The impact of Amphan will remain in the state till the afternoon, he said, adding that the wind speed in some places is expected to reach 100 kmph to 110 kmph gusting to 125 kmph in northern coastal parts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj districts during the period.
A report from Bhadrak district said many trees and electric poles were uprooted in the district under the impact of gusty winds and heavy downpour, blocking roads in several areas.
Heavy downpour accompanied by gusty wind also lashed Kendrapara where district administration has evacuated 38,000 people from vulnerable seaside pockets to the safety of multi-purpose cyclone shelter buildings.
Reports of trees and electric poles being uprooted and ‘kutcha ‘ houses being blown away are coming in from various parts of the district. However, there has been no major damage to life and property so far.
“We have evacuated vulnerable people to maintain zero-causality,” said Kendrapara Collector Samath Verma.
“The wind speed is picking up. The trees have got uprooted…However, we are feeling safe inside the cyclone shelter building. However, it is jam-packed. As a result social distancing to contain the spread of coronavirus is not being maintained here”, said Pradyot Giri, who has taken shelter at Bagagahana multi-purpose building in Rajnagar tehsil.
Amphan is considered to be the second major cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal after the Super Cyclone of 1999 which had claimed around 10,000 lives and inflicted large scale devastation in Odisha.
The cyclone comes a year after Fani barreled through vast parts of Odisha on May 3, claiming at least 64 lives and destroying power, telecom, and other vital infrastructure.