KOLKATA: Cyclone 'Amphan' lay centred about 170 km south of West Bengal's Digha as an extremely severe cyclonic storm over west-central Bay of Bengal and is likely to make landfall near Sunderbans between Wednesday afternoon and evening, the MeT department said.
'Amphan' is likely to move north-northeastwards after landfall and pass close to Kolkata in its eastern side, causing extensive damage and flooding of low-lying areas in the city, the weather office said.
The system, which was moving in a northward direction at a speed of 20 km per hour, was situated 300 km southeast of Kolkata at 11 am on Wednesday, it said.
It is likely to weaken and move through Nadia and Murshidabad districts of West Bengal as a cyclonic storm and then into Bangladesh as a deep depression on Thursday morning, the MeT department said.
The intensity near the centre of the storm was 170 to 180 kmph gusting to 200kmph, it said.
"The cyclone is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross West Bengal-Bangladesh coast between Digha and Hatiya, close to Sunderbans between afternoon and evening on Wednesday with a wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph as a very severe cyclonic storm," the weather office said.
The MeT department has issued an "orange message" for West Bengal, which warned of extensive damage in Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, South and North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts.
It advised that all establishments and markets remain closed in Kolkata and adjoining areas and movement of people be restricted on Wednesday.
The metropolis has been experiencing light to moderate rainfall since the morning with gusts of strong wind.
Traffic on the roads was thin as most people chose to remain indoors owing to the inclement weather.
With the COVID-19-related restrictions in place, the tourist destinations of Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur on the shores of the Bay of Bengal are deserted, as locals living close to the coast have been evacuated at many places by the state government.
There is likely to be disruption of rail and road link at several places, uprooting of communication and power poles, extensive damage to all types of kutcha houses and some damage to old badly managed pucca structures and the potential threat from flying objects, the weather office warned.
There is also likelihood of extensive damage to standing crops, plantations and orchards, the MeT department said.
It has advised diversion or suspension of rail and road traffic in the districts which are likely to be affected.
The Eastern Railway (ER) has cancelled the departure of Howrah-New Delhi AC Special Express for Wednesday.
The departure of 02301 Howrah-New Delhi AC Special Express on Wednesday and 02302 New Delhi-Howrah AC Special Express on Thursday would remain cancelled, the ER said.
The weather office has forecast wind speed of 75 to 85 kmph with gusts up to 95 kmph from Wednesday morning along and off districts of North and South 24 Parganas, East and West Midnapore, Kolkata, Howrah and Hooghly.
"It will gradually increase thereafter becoming 110 to 120 kmph gusting to 130 kmph over West Midnapore, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata and wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph over the districts of North and South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore of West Bengal from the afternoon to night of May 20," Regional MeT Director G K Das said.
Under its impact, rainfall would occur in most places over the districts of Gangetic West Bengal on Wednesday, with heavy to very heavy downpour at a few places in Kolkata, Howrah, East Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas and Hooghly districts, he said.
"Storm surge of 4 to 5 metres above astronomical tide is likely to inundate low-lying areas of South and North 24 Parganas and about 3 to 4 metres over low-lying areas of East Midnapore district of West Bengal during the time of landfall," he said.
The Indian Navy has dispatched a diving team for providing assistance to the West Bengal government in relief operations, according to a defence official.
The diving team from Visakhapatnam has brought specialised equipment along with them which can be used for rescue in case of flooding and have been positioned at the Naval Service Selection Board at Diamond Harbour in South 24 Parganas district, the official said.
The Indian Coast Guard has deployed 20 disaster relief teams (DRT) along the eastern coast in view of cyclone 'Amphan'.
These teams will help in relief operations at short notice, the coast guard said.
West Bengal on Tuesday mounted one of its biggest evacuation exercises by moving more than three lakh people to safer places as the extremely severe cyclonic storm 'Amphan' roared towards the coastal areas of the state, officials said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said more than three lakh people from three coastal districts have been moved to safety and all steps are being taken to deal with any eventuality arising out of cyclone 'Amphan', which was scaled down from a super cyclone to an extremely severe cyclonic storm after it lost some of its steam on Tuesday afternoon.
There are around 100 cyclone shelters spread across the coastal districts of North 24 Parganas, East Midnapore and South 24 Parganas, officials said.
"Most of the cyclone shelters are already full with quarantined migrant workers who have returned due to the lockdown. So we are using schools and colleges as shelters," an official said.