BHUBANESWAR: With Cyclone Hudhud roaring towards the Odisha coast, the state government today began evacuating people from vulnerable areas to minimise casualties even as two flights and 39 trains on the route were cancelled.
"The collectors of eight districts - Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kalahandi and Kandhamal have been on the job to shift people from vulnerable areas to safe places," Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Mohapatra said.
Rains have been reported from some areas, mostly in the southern region but there was no report of any major damage so far, sources in the SRC said.
Malkangiri, which is likely to the worst hit, is experiencing heavy rainfall and strong winds have been reported from it. One 'kuchha' house at Gudguta village was damaged as a tree fell on it but there was no report of any casualty from anywhere in the district.
Mohapatra said about 3.5 lakh people, including those living in the coast of Ganjam are being evacuated and the district authorities have been asked to start a free kitchen.
The district authorities have also been asked to stock adequate quantities of dryfood.
The government has deployed 25 units - 15 of NDRF and 10 of ODRF, each comprising 40 personnel, besides fire service men in vulnerable places in different parts of the state, the SRC said.
As the southern part of the state is likely to be more affected by the cyclonic storm, heavy rainfall and consequent floods, collectors of the eight districts have been asked to carefully assess and evacuate all vulnerable population to safe buildings, Chief Secretary G C Pati said.
As cyclone and flood situations are new for the tribal population in these districts, the administration is facing difficulty convincing the people to shift.
"We have engaged public announcement system and local community leaders to ensure that all the people living in kutcha houses are taken to safe places," Pati said.
The SRC said the Malkangiri collector has been asked to ensure that none should remain inside 'kutcha' houses. All the people living in such houses should be evacuated to safe places in keeping with the state's target of zero casualty.
Though the state government is expecting the maximum wind speed in areas adjoining Andhra Pradesh to remain within 100 kmph, it apprehended that heavy rainfall could create problems for the people.
"The rainfall could be in the range of 10 cm to 25 cm within a span of only 36 hours from tomorrow afternoon," said Mohapatra, the SRC.
He said besides the eight identified districts, many other places would also receive rainfall from tomorrow afternoon till Monday afternoon as per the IMD prediction.
Preparations were ready to deal with possible flood in rivers like Rushikulya,
Bamsadhara and Nagavali due to heavy rains that would accompany the cyclone.
The chief secretary said the Centre has assured the state government to keep some choppers ready at Kalaikunda air base in West Bengal for air dropping of food packets in the affected areas.
The state has received 14 satellite phones and the Centre has also send eight more NDRF teams as per its request, he said.
The state government has cancelled holidays today (second Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday) and all offices of the state government, including PSUs will remain open.
According to the latest bulletin of IMD here the very severe cyclonic storm is now lying within the range of Doppler weather radar, Visakhapatnam and is being tracked by it since early this morning in addition to satellite and other observational tools. As per IMD's latest observations, Cyclone Hudhud has moved west northwestwards during the past six hours and lay centered about 380 km south-southeast of Gopalpur in the Bay of Bengal at 5.30 am today.
The system would move west-northwestwards for some more time. It would then move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh coast around Visakhapatnam by the forenoon tomorrow, it said.
Under its influence heavy to very heavy rainfall will occur at a few places over Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Nawarangpur, Ganjam, Gajpati, Kalahandi and Phulbani districts of south Odisha in subsequent 48 hours.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall would be experienced at one or two places in Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Nayagarh, Nuapada, Boudh, Sonepur and Bolangir districts during the same period, it said.
The IMD also advised for hoisting local cautionary signal number three (LC-III) at all ports in Odisha.
It said the sea would be rough to very rough and squally wind speed reaching 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph from the northeast would prevail along and off Odisha coasts.
The wind speed would increase to 80-90 kmph along and off Odisha coast from today evening, it said and suggested suspension of fishing activities. It also advised fishermen not to venture into the sea.
While East Coast Railways has already announced cancellation of 39 trains in view of the cyclone, the authorities of Biju Patnaik airport here said the decision to cancel two flights was taken considering the safety of the passengers.
"We have cancelled two Indigo flights to Visakhapatanam this morning and are keeping a watch on the situation," Airport Director Sarad Kumar said.
ECoR chief public relations officer J P Mishra said, "We have decided to cancel all trains on the Bhubaneswar and Viskshapatanam route tomorrow."