Odisha readies for possible cyclone

Bhubaneswar, May 15 (PTI) In the midst of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Odisha braced for a possible cyclone by putting 12 coastal districts on alert on Friday and asking collectors to arrange for alternative shelter homes for the people there, a top government official said.

A well-marked low-pressure over the Bay of Bengal is all set to intensify into a depression and a cyclonic storm.

Odisha Special Relief Commissioner P K Jena said he reviewed the situation and the possible impact on the state with Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy.

According to preliminary information from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) the possible depression will re-curve from its path to north-northeast direction and move in the Bay of Bengal, Jena said.

The speed of the depression's movement is yet to be ascertained and the IMD is yet to predict the place of the landfall of the possible cyclone. It may be in north Odisha, south Bengal or even in Bangladesh, he said, adding fishermen are advised not to venture into deep sea from Friday.

Though the IMD is yet to give an exact forecast on the system, the weather department has made it clear that the well-marked low pressure will take the shape of depression on Friday evening and intensify into a cyclonic storm later.

'We cannot predict the trajectory of the system now as the depression is yet to be formed. However, it may have some impact on the districts located in the northern region of Odisha and southern parts of West Bengal. As a result, heavy rainfall is likely in coastal areas from May 19,' IMD Director General Mrutunjay Mohapatra said.

He said the IMD will be able to share the exact track and impact of the cyclonic storm after it intensifies into a depression.

In view of the impending situation, the Odisha government has put on alert 12 coastal districts, particularly the northern districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore, Jena said.

He said plans have been made for pre-positioning of the ODRAF, NDRF and fire service personnel if the situation arises. They will rescue people likely to be affected by the probable calamity and clear roads if they get blocked.

The situation will be managed properly as Odisha has vast experience in dealing with such situations in the past, the special relief commissioner said, adding, 'We are well prepared to deal with any situation. However, the district administrations will have the double task to manage COVID-19 situation along with the possible cyclone.' Chief Secretary Tripathy told collectors, 'I request you to prepare for the worst irrespective of what the IMD predicts. I know you are fighting the pandemic... Now we require people for the possible cyclone situation. Prepare for the worst... prepare for the ultimate eventuality.' Referring to Odisha's successful handling of natural calamities in the past, he said, 'Our cyclone and flood preparedness is acclaimed not only nationally but internationally also. We must maintain that.' Jena told reporters, that as most of the cyclone and flood shelters and schools are now being used as temporary medical centres to lodge returnees from different states in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the collectors will keep ready other concrete buildings in their jurisdiction for housing people in areas likely to be affected by the cyclone.

The district collectors have been told to ensure that temporary medical centres located within three km from the sea be shifted if required.

'We have spoken to the district collectors of northern districts through video conference and apprised them of the situation. They were directed to keep the machinery ready for the impending situation,' Jena said. 'If required, evacuation of people will be undertaken keeping the situation in view.' To a question, the special relief commissioner said the collectors were told to conduct health screening and tests those lodged in temporary medical centres in the coastal districts and allow those testing COVID-19 negative to be in home quarantine.

The state health and family welfare department will soon issue a notification in this regard, he said.

Jena said all line departments have been alerted.

While the housing and urban development and panchayati raj departments have been told to ensure supply of drinking water, the energy department has been asked to be prepared for resuming power supply quickly if there is any damage due to the possible cyclone. The health department is also been asked to be ready, he said.

The review meeting was also attended by top officers of the police, fire service, law and order, NDRF and all department secretaries, officials said. PTI AAM SKN KK NSD NSD