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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Monster Phailin Batters Gopalpur In Odisha, Heavy Rains Now Pose Threat Of Floods

Deadly War Between Man And Nature

Intensity To Wane In 6 Hours As Winds Move Further Inland

Gopalpur/Bhubaneswar:CyclonePhailin kept its stormy date with the Odisha coast,striking justoff Gopalpur around 9.15pm on Saturday with winds raging at 200km an hour whipping up a storm surge of over 3 metres and inundating areasup tohalf a km inland. 
    Thousandsof people braced for a fateful night as gale force winds swept Odisha from Gopalpur up toParadip and northern Andhra Pradesh too faced high speed storms, torrential rain and surging waters. 
    Saturday night will prove crucial in determining if evacuation efforts have succeeded as the danger now lies in con
tinuous, high intensity rainfall and winds in the range of 150-200kmph that can flood low-lying areas and damage vulnerable huts and poorly constructed housesin thestate. 
    Phailin's intensity is likely to wane after six hours as the cyclone becomes a "conventional" storm with wind speeds of 70-80kmph.After sixhours,theweather system wouldhave movedon to neighbouring states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. 
    With Odisha evacuating 3.5 lakh people and Andhra Pradesh moving another 2lakhtosafety, authoritieshopelossof human liveswillbe minimal.Yet,with12 cm rain expected to pound the coastal and inland areas in the next 24 hours, rescue machinery, including 18 choppers, 12 aircraft and two Indian Navy ships, is atstandby. 
    Phailin is not a super cyclone,butthe howling winds and the sight of trees being uprooted revived traumatic memoriesof the1999cyclonethatkilled an esti
mated 10,000 and left lakhs homeless in 14coastaldistrictsof Odisha. 
    As the eye of the cyclone—about 15-km across—struck the Gopalpur area, thestormsurgeinundated areasof Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. Gopalpur received a hammering as mediapersons and 
localssecuredthemselveswithin official buildings. 
    Roofs of kuccha houses and asbestos sheets could be seen flying off in a distance. Even before Phailin reached Odisha shores, at least five persons were killedby treesfelledby a storm. 
    As Phailin reached its predicted landfall,earthsciencessecretary Shaile
sh Nayak told TOI, "Our predictions on the cyclone's speeds have been proved correct.Butthe next24hourswillbecritical asheavy rains andhighspeedwinds can causedamage." 
    The darkness of the night made it toughto assessthedamageimmediately.
Praying for Puri 
    The cyclone didn't come in the way of rituals at the Jagannath temple. Priests performed puja for the town's safety. "In 1999, Puri was supposed to take the brunt of the storm. But the Lord saved us," a priest said. P 15 
Shelters full 
    Shelters built after the 1999 cyclone are now hubs of activity. The shelter at Kanamana in Ganjam, which has five rooms including one for pregnant women, is full to capacity. Volunteers are serving people rice and dalma. 
Tourist exodus 
    Over two lakh tourists have left Puri in the last three days. Almost all hotels and restaurants are shut and have reported large-scale cancellations of bookings. "The loss will be huge," said Odisha's tourism director. 
Prez evacuated 
    Durga Puja festivities were cut short in West Bengal's seaside resorts as evacuations began. Even President Pranab Mukherjee hurriedly left his home in Bengal's Birbhum district for Delhi to avoid being stranded. P 15 

No trains on Visakhapatnam-Howrah route. 183 trains cancelled, 26 diverted, 3 railway zones hit 
No flights out of Bhubaneswar 
No power in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada. Hospitals in a limbo till Sunday evening 
5.5 lakh evacuated to 500 shelters in Andhra & Odisha. Many fisherfolk refuse to leave, some boats stranded at sea 
2,000 disaster relief personnel, 2 Navy ships, IAF choppers waiting to take over 
It's not a super cyclone, intensity less, says Met office. Eye of storm is 15km wide; Kalingapatnam-Paradip stretch to bear brunt 
Next 6 hours crucial. Extent of damage to be known only by morning. Fear of floods as rain lashes both states 
Giant waves triggered by Phailin crash in Visakhapatnam on Saturday 
Low-lying areas flooded, people move to shelters 
    Even at sea, the cyclone was 500km across, its massive stretch encompassing hundreds of cloud masses who's down drafts cause winds to gust to 240kmph. It did not lose speed as it approachedtheOdisha coast andisexpected to carry on in its path inland without stopping. 
    Sincethecyclonehit at nightitwillbedifficult to immediately assess the damage in terms of roads blocked, telephone and power linesdown,buteven beforethecyclone arrived, railway and air schedules were cancelled.Markets and roadslookeddesertedin Bhubaneswar and Cuttack on Saturday as panic-struck people preferred to stay indoors. Durga puja pandals wore a forlorn look as heavy rain lashed coastal areas and sky remainedovercast. 
    All passenger flights from and to Biju PatnaikAirportherewerecancelled. 
    "It's wait and watch time. Let's pray that God does not unleash much damage," said Saroj Sahoo, a retired government servant in Bhubaneswar.Thecity'sbusiest roadJanpathhardly had any vehicle plying. 
    Puja organizers cancelled all cultural events, removed flashy lights and vulnerable structures. "The cultural programmes automatically stand cancelled. We pray goddess Durga to save the pandals from getting blown away," said Pabitra Mohan Behera, president of the Nayapalli puja committee in Bhubaneswar. 
    The twin cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar have around 200 big budget pandals, spending Rs 30 lakh to Rs 50 lakh each. The sea has inundated low-lying areas and parts of Gopalpur like Bada Aryjapalli and Podampeta. Several trees were uprooted. Electricity supply was broken at most places. The Ganjam administration managed to evacuate around 1.20 lakh people within 10km off the coast; in other parts of Odisha like Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapada another 2.3 lakh peoplewereevacuated. 
    In Ganjam, the administration had designated 1,060 buildings as cyclone shelters. Official sources said in addition to the people moved away by the administration, another 30,000 people areexpectedtohave gone 
tosafer locationson their own.Even then,officers fear the loss to human and cattle life and property. 
    Civil and police officers and elected representatives were working towards minimizing human casualty, with chief minister Naveen Patnaik laying maximum emphasison it. 
    At cyclone shelters, cooked food is being served while dry food has been kept ready to tacklethe post-cyclone needs,he added. 
    Cuttack and Bhubaneswar experienced frequent power cuts starting from Friday night with power distributor CESU snapping supply as a precautionary measure. 
    "We are keeping a close watch of the situation and cutting power depending on the windssituation. Wherever thespeedcrosses 50km per hour,wewillstop the power supply completely," said CESU chief operating officer Sudarsana Nayak. Hundreds of trees were uprooted in Paradip, Jagatsinghpur and Puri districts by Saturday morning muchbeforethe anticipatedlandfall.


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