West Bengal and Odisha have evacuated lakhs of people from vulnerable areas to safety as severe cyclonic storm 'Yaas' is nearing the coast and is expected to make landfall near Dhamra Port in Bhadrak district early on Wednesday morning. Neighbouring Jharkhand has also sounded an alert and is preparing for the cyclone's impact. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that her administration has evacuated over nine lakh people to safe shelters. The Odisha government, on the other hand, said it has moved over 2 lakh people from vulnerable areas in coastal districts to safety.
IMD Director General Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said that 'Yaas' is likely to intensify into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm (VSCS) by Tuesday evening. He said the cyclone's impact will be severe for six hours before and after the landfall and Chandbali will witness the maximum damage. Dr Umashankar Das, a scientist at the Regional Meteorological Centre, Bhubaneswar said that the landfall will most likely be between Dhamra and Chandbali in Odisha's Bhadrak district.
CM Banerjee said over 74,000 officers and workers and over 2 lakh policemen and civic volunteers have been deployed to mitigate the natural calamity in West Bengal. She said that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel have been deployed and Army's help will be sought if required.
"We have evacuated at least 9 lakh people to relief and flood centres. There are 4,000 flood centres in the state "We are monitoring the situation 24/7. Control rooms have been set up at every block to monitor the situation, apart from the one at state secretariat Nabanna," she said.
The chief minister said that senior IAS officers have been assigned to monitor the situation in different districts.
"The chief and home secretaries are in touch with the district magistrates. I have spoken with the DMs of South and North 24 Parganas, Jhargram and Purba Medinipur districts. I will be at Nabanna to monitor the situation throughout the night," she said.
Banerjee said adequate arrangements have been made for Kolkata.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) Board of Administrators' Chairman Firhad Hakim is monitoring the situation from home, she said. Special Relief Commissioner of Odisha, PK Jena, said that over 2.10 lakh people residing in kutcha houses in low- lying areas have been moved to cyclone shelters.
The highest number of evacuees are from Balasore district (74,132), followed by Bhadrak (73,103).
Evacuation of people is also underway in Cuttack, Kendrapara, Keonjhar, Khurda, Jagastinghpur, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Gajapati, Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Nayagarh, Puri and Angul districts, he said.
Around 5,000 pregnant women expecting delivery by June 1 have been admitted to hospitals, a health official said.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has rushed Odisha's Minister of State for Home, DS Mishra to Balasore to monitor the situation in the northern parts of the state.
Jena said the four coastal districts of Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak and Balasore are in the high-risk zone, while the impact of 'Yaas' will also be felt in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundergarh, Dhenkanal, Angul, and parts of Puri and Khurda districts.
He said large-scale destruction is anticipated in the coastal region during landfall.
"We have started preparation accordingly after the IMD predicted that the cyclone will hit the coast anywhere near Bhitarkanika, Dhamra and Chandbali," Jena said.
Also, 404 rescue teams including 52 from the NDRF, 60 from the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), 205 Fire service teams and 86 groups of tree-cutters have been deployed in the vulnerable districts, he said.
Around 50 mm rainfall has been recorded across all the 30 districts since Monday night, with Jagatsinghpur receiving the maximum downpour, Jena said.
He said over 10,000 Energy Department employees have been deployed in the vulnerable districts to restore power and 2,000 more will reach by Tuesday night.
Jajpur district administration has prohibited the movement of vehicles, barring the emergency ones, on National Highway 16 from Chandikhole to Balasore from Tuesday midnight till landfall, Collector Chakravarti Singh Rathore said.
'Yaas' is likely to move north-northwestwards and intensify further into a VSCS during the next 12 hours, the IMD said. The system has been moving north-northwestwards at a speed of 10 kmph.
Wind speeds will increase to 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph over northwest Bay of Bengal and along and off north Odisha and adjoining West Bengal coasts during landfall, it said.
The system is likely to cause heavy rain over large parts of West Bengal and Odisha on Tuesday and Wednesday.
'Yaas' is also expected to cause a storm surge of 2-4 metres along the coastline of Purba Medinipur and 1-2 metres in South 24 Parganas, and may cause inundation of several low-lying areas.
Sanjib Bandopadhyay, the Deputy Director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata said there is no possibility of Amphan-like situation in the eastern metropolis. The city was severely affected due to the impact of the super-cyclone last year.
He said Kolkata will experience a maximum windspeed of 65-75 kmph gusting to 85 kmph during landfall.
The weatherman advised fishermen against venturing out into the sea till further information.
It warned of destruction to thatched houses, extensive damage to kutcha dwellings and some damage to pucca buildings in coastal and adjoining interior districts of West Bengal.
The MeT Department also warned of bending or uprooting of electric poles and disruption of railway services due to snapping of power lines and signalling systems.
The South Eastern Railways has announced the cancellation of several passenger special trains till Wednesday.
Jharkhand has evacuated people from vulnerable areas in East and West Singhbhum districts near the borders of West Bengal and Odisha and moved them to safety, a senior official said.
The cyclone is likely to hit the Kolhan division comprising East and West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan districts, besides Bokaro and Khunti, Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told PTI.
He said eight NDRF teams have been deployed in areas of the Kolhan division bordering the two neighbouring states.
Hospitals have been asked to ensure alternate arrangements for electricity, oxygen and other essential supplies.
Officials concerned have been told to ensure restoration of water and power supply at the earliest.
Director General of Police Neeraj Sinha said the police machinery is also ready to deal with any exigency.
"This is the first time in the history of Jharkhand that it is facing such a severe cyclonic storm. We are ready to deal with its impact," he said.
IMD senior scientist Dr RK Jenamani said that Jharkhand is likely to witness wind speeds of up to 110-120 kmph.