Odisha braces for cyclonic storm Amphan amid COVID-19 outbreak

Coastal Odisha may experience heavy rain in isolated places in the evening of May 18 and heavy to very heavy rain at a few places on May 19

The Odisha government has placed 12 coastal districts on alert in view of cyclone Amphan. Image: IMD

Fishermen in Odisha have been asked not to venture into the deep sea in view of the impending cyclonic storm that is likely to intensify on Saturday (May 16) evening and batter the state and neighbouring West Bengal over the next few days.

The state government has, meanwhile, placed 12 coastal districts on alert and asked the collectors to arrange for alternative shelter for the people there, a senior official said, as Odisha braced for another challenge amid the fight against COVID-19 outbreak.

The well-marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal intensified into a depression on Saturday morning, laying centred around 1,100 km south of Paradip in Odisha, the MeT department said.

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The system, which is around 1,250 km south of Digha in West Bengal and 1,330 km south-southwest of Khepupara in Bangladesh, is likely to intensify rapidly into a cyclonic storm by Saturday evening and then into a severe cyclonic storm during the subsequent 24 hours, Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre Director H R Biswas said.

Thereafter, it is likely to move north-northwestwards initially till May 17 and then re-curve north-northeastwards across northwest Bay of Bengal towards West Bengal coast between May 18 and 20, he said.

Under its impact, coastal Odisha is likely to experience light to moderate rainfall with heavy rain in isolated places in the evening of May 18 and heavy to very heavy rain at a few places on May 19, Biswas said.

He said isolated heavy rainfall is likely to occur over northern Odisha coast on May 20. Coastal districts of Gangetic West Bengal are likely to experience light to moderate rainfall with heavy rain at a few places on May 19 and heavy to very heavy rain in some parts of the region on May 20, Biswas said.

The sea will be rough and fishermen have been advised against venturing into deep seas.

The Odisha government has geared up to deal with a possible calamity in the midst of its fight against COVID-19, a senior official said.

Though the IMD is yet to make an exact forecast about the landfall of the cyclone, the administration has braced for the impending situation and accordingly, focused on the northern coastal districts of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, and Balasore, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), P K Jena said.

He said plans have been made for pre-positioning of the ODRAF, NDRF, and fire service personnel if the situation arises.

The situation will be managed properly as Odisha has a vast experience in dealing with such situations in the past, Jena said. “We are well prepared to deal with any situation. However, the district administrations will have the double task to manage COVID-19 outbreak along with the possible cyclone,” he said.

As most of the cyclone and flood shelters and schools are now being used as temporary medical centres to quarantine returnees from different states, the collectors will keep ready other concrete buildings in their jurisdiction for housing people in their areas likely to be affected by the cyclone, the SRC said.

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

“We have spoken to the collectors of the 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 in view of the situation,” he said.

To a query, the SRC said the collectors were told to conduct screening and tests of those lodged in the temporary medical centres in the coastal districts and allow the people testing negative for COVID-19 to be home quarantined.

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