Cyclone Yaas ravages Bengal and Odisha, leaves four dead, lakhs of homes damaged; Jharkhand on high alert

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The very severe cyclonic storm, Yaas, which pummelled the coast of Odisha and West Bengal at 9 am on Wednesday, will weaken into a deep depression in the next few hours as it is headed towards Jharkhand, via the East and West Singbhum districts, the Indian Meteorological Department said.

Packing winds of up to 130-145 kmph, the cyclone whiplashed the country's eastern coasts, dumping heavy rain, damaging houses and farmlands, and leaving at least four persons dead €" three in Odisha and one in Bengal €" officials said.

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

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The storm had left the coastal states on edge, with the West Bengal government claiming that at least one crore people have been affected by the calamity thus far and over three lakh houses have been damaged.

After making the landfall in Odisha in the morning, Cyclone Yaas had gradually weakened into a severe cyclonic storm by noon and then into a cyclonic storm by 5.30 pm. The cyclone lay centred at about 75 kilometre west of Balasore, as per a 7.30 pm report, with the intensity of 70-80kmph, gusting to 90 kmph.

The forecast said it would move north-northwestwards and weaken into a deep depression in the next two to three hours. There have been no new bulletins by the IMD since then.

Odisha's Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar became operational for flights from 7 pm today. Earlier, it was to be shut till 5 am on 27 May due to cyclone Yaas. Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport too resumed flight operations at 6.30 pm.

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

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Odisha: 128 villags marooned in Balasore Bhadrak districts

Trees and electric poles were uprooted, low-lying areas inundated while kutcha houses were badly damaged as Cyclone Yaas left a trail of destruction in Odisha's coastal districts of Balasore and Bhadrak.

As many as 128 villages in the two districts were marooned due to the cyclone. Some of the affected villages witnessed the rushing of saline water due to tidal surge, while others are flooded because of the downpour.

Residents of several parts of the two districts, which bore the brunt of the 'very severe cyclonic storm', are staying without power since Tuesday night while many people have been evacuated to safer places by the government.

Seawater inundated several villages in Bahanaga and Remuna blocks in the Balasore district, and Dhamra and Basudevpur in the Bhadrak district, Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said.

Officials are yet to assess the damages caused by the storm in the two districts but said that it appears that devastations have been less than previously feared.

"There has been a lot of damage here. Many trees and electric poles have been uprooted and there was very heavy rainfall," Sritam Mahajan, a resident of Soro town in Balasore district, told PTI

The administration, with the help of the locals, is taking measures to drain out the saline water from the villages, Jena explained.

Heavy rainfall in the Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district sparked fears of a flash flood in the Budhabalang river. By afternoon, the water level in the river stood at 21 metres against the danger level of 27 metres, the special relief commissioner said.

Local sources said two persons were killed €" one each in Keonjhar and Balasore €" after trees fell on them, but there was no official confirmation yet. Another elderly woman in Mayurbhanj reportedly died after her house collapsed.

Restoration work for power lines have started in several places of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Jajpur districts after cables snapped, Jena said, adding that the storm will likely move to Jharkhand by midnight.

Even though the intensity of cyclonic storm has regressed, a red warning for heavy to very heavy rainfall was issued in nine districts.

"Heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with isolated extremely heavy fall very likely to occur over the districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal," the weather office said.

Chandbali in Bhadrak district recorded rainfall of 288.3 mm over the past 24 hours, followed by Rajkanika in Kendrapara (251 mm), the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre said.

Nawana in Mayurbhanj district received 210.4 mm rainfall, Binjharpur in Jajpur (206 mm), Paradip in Jagatsinghpur (200.3 mm) and Astaranga in Puri (180 mm), it said.

The districts of Dhenkanal, Angul, Deogarh and Sundargarh received moderate rain, while the average precipitation in the Keonjhar district was 44.7 mm, the department said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has announced seven days' relief for the affected families.

He also directed officials to ensure that all major roads affected by the cyclone be repaired and 80 percent of electricity supply in affected districts be restored within the next 24 hours.

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Patnaik made the announcement after reviewing the situation created in the aftermath of the cyclone which is still active in the district of Mayurbnajh and is likely to leave the state by midnight.

Patnaik also asked officials to undertake health check-up of over 6.5 lakh people who were taken to cyclone shelters and test samples of suspected COVID-19 patients.

West Bengal: Several areas flooded; army called in for rescue ops

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has claimed that her state is the "worst-affected", pointing out that three lakh houses and 134 embankments have been damaged due to the cyclone. She also said that one person, who was initially rescued, died "accidentally" later.

Mamata further stated that relief materials worth Rs 10 crore have been sent to the affected areas.

The scenic town of Digha in East Midnapore, which shares border with Balasore district of Odisha, lay swamped, with the Indian Army being called in for rescue operations, a defence official said.

Parts of the nearby tourist towns of Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur were also inundated, with seawater entering hotels and residential areas, besides causing damage to kutcha shops and houses. In certain areas, the waves were seen surging as high as the coconut trees that line the popular beaches.

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A school, situated along the coast in Shankarpur, was washed away by the high and mighty sea waves.

The Army has deployed 17 columns in West Bengal to assist the administration, the defence official said. Rescue operation by the Army was also underway at Orphuli in the Howrah district, he said.

In South 24 Parganas, hundreds of villagers were displaced in Kakdwip, Fraserganj, Gosaba and the Sunderbans region, as multiple homes were extensively damaged in the surging water and gale winds, officials said.

Several rivers were in spate owing to the phenomenal rise in water level €" caused by the dual effect of storm surge and the astronomical tide due to the full moon.

Flooding was also reported from Sagar island at the confluence of Hooghly and Bay of Bengal. The compound of the much-revered Kapil Muni Temple in Sagar Islands lay submerged, as tidal waves, as tall as five feet, crashed over the boardwalks.

Some fishing boats and equipment were destroyed at harbours in Kakdwip, leaving the fishermen devoid of their livelihood. "We will starve unless the government provides us with assistance," said a hapless villager at Kakdwip as his boat lay ravaged in front of him.

The Kolkata Port was on tenterhooks as Hooghly swelled to eight metres, surpassing the heights of the external lock gate of the Haldia Dock System, an official said. However, no assets have been reported damaged as of now and the officials said a clear picture would emerge after more reports come.

Water-logging was also reported from certain low-lying areas of Kolkata with the authorities facing a tough time clearing the area due to high tide in Hooghly, they said.

The weather office has predicted extremely heavy rainfall in East and West Midnapore districts and heavy to very heavy rainfall in Jhargram, Bankura, South 24 Parganas districts over the next 24 hours.

Heavy rain will occur at isolated places in Purulia, Nadia, Murshidabad, Purba Bardhaman, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts owing to the effect of 'Yaas', the weather office said.

Jharkhand: Evacuations underway on war-footing as state braces for storm

Jharkhand, which is already on high alert, continued evacuating low-lying areas during the day amid forecast that the cyclone would be hitting the state by midnight, officials in Ranchi said.

Evacuations are being carried out on war-footing in the vulnerable areas of East and West Singhbhum, besides some other districts, in view of the natural calamity, Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told PTI.

East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan districts of the state are likely to experience "very high seas", with wind speed of 92-117 kmph, the weather office said.

"We are ready to deal with the situation and have formed rescue teams," Jharkhand Director-General of Police Neeraj Sinha stated.

The districts of Sahibganj, Godda, Pakur, Garhwa and Palamu may witness "very rough seas" condition 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, IMD 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 likely to be flooded due to heavy rainfall.

Forest, Drinking Water and Sanitation, and Electricity 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.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Cyclone Yaas weakens into 'severe storm'; 3 lakh homes damaged, 1 cr people affected in Bengal, says Mamata Banerjee

Cyclone Yaas updates: Jharkhand remains on high alert, over 10,000 people evacuated

Cyclone Yaas likely to hit Bengal, Odisha on 26-27 May; NDRF begins positioning teams

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