Cyclone Yaas: J'khand remains on high alert;over 10,000 people evacuated

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(Eds: adding detail) Ranchi, May 26 (PTI) Jharkhand remains on high alert and has evacuated over 10,000 people to safer zones while operation is still on amid forecast that cyclone 'Yaas' would be hitting the state by midnight after pounding neighbouring Odisha and West Bengal, officials said Wednesday.

The state has imposed complete lockdown in some parts to prevent people from venturing out in view of prediction of severe cyclonic storm battering the state.

Cyclone Yaas, packing winds of up to 130-145 kmph, whiplashed the country's eastern coasts on Wednesday, dumping heavy rain, damaging houses and farmlands, and leaving at least four persons dead - three in Odisha and one in Bengal.

Operations are being executed on a war-footing in the vulnerable areas in East and West Singhbhum, besides some other districts due to cyclonic storm Yaas, Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told PTI.

'We have evacuated 9,502 persons so far from the 306 sites and the evacuation operations are on. A total of 848 of our villages are impacted by it.

'We are witnessing heavy rainfall and there has been damage to the power transmission network besides trees have been uprooted,' East Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner Suraj Kumar said.

The cyclone is likely to hit the district, whose headquarter is in Jamshedpur, at midnight and all precautionary measures are being taken on a war-footing, Kumar said.

'We have announced a complete lockdown today and tomorrow barring some relaxation for emergency cases and essential services,' the East Singhbhum DC said adding a flood cell has been created and people are being evacuated from low lying areas of Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers.

NDRF teams are alert for rescue operations while 500 relief teams are already working besides massive steps to face the situation.

West Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner Rajkamal told PTI, 'We have evacuated 1,065 people to safer locations while a lockdown has been announced in the district for today and tomorrow barring essential services.' Director-General of Police Neeraj Sinha told PTI, 'Satellite phones are being provided to interior Naxal- affected police stations for emergent communications, besides batteries in police wireless systems have been readied in case of communication disruptions due to the storm.' 'We are ready to deal with the situation and have formed rescue teams,' he added.

East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan districts of the state are likely to witness high velocity winds of 92-117 kmph, the weather office said.

The districts of Sahibganj, Godda, Pakur, Garhwa and Palamu may witness 'very rough seas' with a wind speed of 52- 61 kmph.

Rest of the state is likely to have 'high to very high seas' phenomenon with a wind speed of 62-91 kmph, it said.

This is the first time in the history of Jharkhand that it is facing such a severe cyclonic storm.

Chief Minister Hemant Soren has asked officials to be on their toes to deal with any emergency situation.

COVID vaccination drives have been suspended till Thursday in some parts of the state in view of heavy rainfall and lightning, besides high-speed wind which is likely to uproot trees, officials said.

Door-to-door testing for COVID-19 has also been halted at many places, they said.

The Disaster Management Department has alerted authorities to take immediate action as cities such as Ranchi are witnessing heavy rainfall.

Forest, drinking water and sanitation, and electricity departments officials have been asked to be on stand-by.

They have been asked to chalk out alternative plans to deal with electric and water supply, besides clearing of roads in case of uprooting of trees, and ensuring satellite phones and wireless communication are ready as networks are likely to be hit badly.

As per the weather forecast the state is likely to witness 'heavy to very heavy rainfall and extremely heavy rainfalls' some places.

Thick sheets of rain blurred the vast coastline in Odisha, as the cyclone made landfall around 9 am near Dhamra port in Odisha, with surging waters swamping the mud-and- thatch houses in the low-lying areas, where a massive evacuation drive was carried beforehand to move more than 20 lakh people to safety.

Yaas is the second cyclonic storm to hit India within a week after 'Tauktae' tore into its western coast, causing death and destruction. PTI NAM SNS SNS

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