he Phailin cyclone, that has brought Odisha bitter memories of a similar 1999 disaster that killed 10,000 people, is apprehended to hit landfall at Gopalpur at 8pm on Saturday.
The sea has turned turbulent forcing the fishing vessels that had ventured into the deep sea to return, while authorities are busy trucking thousands of villagers from their mud and thatch coastal homes to government shelters inland.
Here are the latest alerts from Odisha:
• Cyclone Phailin has started crossing Odisha coast near Gopalpur with wind speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour
“Very severe cyclone Phailin has just started crossing the coast near Gopalpur. The reported wind speed is 200 kmph,” LS Rathore, the director general of the Indian Meteorological Office, told reporters in New Delhi.
Rathore said that the cyclone posed a danger to a 150-kilometre (around 95 miles) stretch of coastline in the states of Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Orissa state.
• Heavy to very heavy rainfall were also widespread in the districts of Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Bhadrak and Kendrapara in coastal region besides state capital Bhubaneshwar.
• The extent of damage wreaked by the cyclone was not immediately available. Three people were killed in Odisha in the heavy rains ahead of the storm.
Darkness enveloped wide swathes of the coastal districts of Odisha, especially Ganjam, whose Gopalpur-on-sea was the entry point for the storm uprooting trees and electric poles.
• Govt ready with choppers, aircraft, ships for cyclone rescue
Eighteen helicopters, 12 aircraft and two war ships have been kept ready by the government for rescue and relief operations.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the Indian Air Force choppers and aircraft and the two navy ships are placed in close proximity of the eastern coastline and would be deployed for rescue and relief operations.
“The cyclone has left Andaman Nicobar Islands and will hit Odisha any time now. Three districts of Andhra Pradesh and 8 districts in Odisha are likely to be affected,” Shinde told reporters in New Delhi.
• 5.5 lakh people in Odisha were evacuated in safer places, said Shinde.
• Five villages in Khurda inundated by Devi river’s waters, 2 in Ganjam district by sea water and 3 by spillover from Chilika Lake before Phailin hit the coast
• 4.7 lakh people evacuated from 7 Odisha districts, 2 lakh of them from Ganjam alone
• Winds speeding 120km/hr and 150km/hr pummel Puri and Gopalpur
Even before the cyclonic storm made a landfall, Puri and Gopalpur were hit by very high speed winds – 120km per hour in Puri and 150km per hour in Gopalpur.