Odisha: With cyclone Yaas, which has now intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, on course to hit land in Balasore in Odisha on Wednesday noon, a massive evacuation drive was conducted in Odisha and West Bengal on Tuesday, moving over 20 lakh people from low-lying area to safer zones.
While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee claimed about 11 lakh were evacuated, the Odisha government said close to 10 lakh people were moved. Kolkata, which continues to shudder at the memories of destruction left behind by cyclone Amphan last year, breathed a sigh of relief after the Met department declared the landfall site to be about 300km away in Odisha, Times of India reported.
While spells of heavy rainfall and wind at the speed of 60-70kmph have been predicted in Kolkata, a number of districts like East Midnapore — which is closest to Balasore — West Midnapore, South 24 Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly are likely to be hit.
The report said that Kolkata airport will shut at 8:30 am on Wednesday, just in time before cross winds start gaining strength and turn operations treacherous. The airport will resume operations at 7.45pm.
In Odisha, Bhubaneswar airport suspended operations from 11pm on Tuesday till 5am on Thursday.
Bengal recorded three deaths on Tuesday, with two killed in lightning strike in Asansol and another in a wall collapse following heavy rains in Hooghly. “Cyclone Yaas is coinciding with spring tide and the full moon, which has resulted in rising water levels at Digha as well as the Sunderbans from Tuesday,” ToI quoted Banerjee, who would be overseeing ‘war-room’ operations at Nabanna, as saying.
The genome sequencing lab at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) near Kolkata has been temporarily shut to protect the sophisticated machinery from damage. The lab is one of 10 facilities nationwide that is carrying out whole genome sequencing, a critical research to identify and know the new strains that coronavirus mutates into.
In Odisha, the surge in Covid cases in the coastal districts has worsened the situation. “To ensure physical distancing due to Covid, the space required to house evacuees is double than what would have been needed,” said Vishal Dev, senior IAS officer deputed in Balasore to oversee safety and relief measures, the report mentioned.
Quoting IMD director general Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the report said that Kendrapada besides Dhamra and other southern parts of Bhadrak district will witness the first impact as Yaas may pass close to the places around 5.30am on Wednesday.
By 11.30 am, the cyclone will enter the mainland between Dhamra and Balasore. Many parts of north Odisha faced wind speeds of 100-110kmph and heavy rain on Tuesday.
The IMD said tidal waves of 2-4m high are likely to inundate low-lying areas of Balasore and Bhadrak while wind speed of 155-165kmph and gusting to 185kmph may prevail over Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada and Bhadrak when the cyclone enters land. Dhamra and Paradip ports have suspended operations since Monday.