High wind and heavy rain lashed the coastal belt of Odisha on Saturday disrupting normal life, as 'very severe' cyclonic storm Phailin advances from the Bay of Bengal. The cyclone is expected to make landfall by Saturday evening, officials said.
Authorities continued their efforts to evacuate people from the low-lying areas of the coast to the cyclone shelters. The weather department predicted that the speed and intensity of the wind and rain are likely to grow stronger during the day.
Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra said about three lakh people have been already moved to safer places, and more people are likely to be shifted during next couple of hours.
Mr Mohapatra said that the wind speed is picking up in several areas.
The meteorological centre, in its latest bulletin, said that the 'very severe' cyclonic storm over west central and adjoining east central Bay of Bengal moved northwestwards during past six hours.
It lay centred at about 355 km south-southeast of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district, and 320 km southeast of Gopalpur in Ganjam district, said the bulletin.
It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur (Odisha) by Saturday evening, with a maximum sustained wind speed of 210-220 kmph, the Met department said.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall is expected at most places. Some places may witness extremely heavy falls of about 25 centimetres, the weather office said.
Road communications have been disrupted in some places of Ganjam and Jagatsinghpur districts due to rain. Power lines have also been affected.
The state government said it has heightened preparedness to deal with the cyclone. Stocks of foodgrain and other essential commodities have already been kept in cyclone relief centres, so that people do not face difficulties. People who have taken shelters in such centres were provided cooked food.
Relief and rescue officials have already arrived at vulnerable places and started operations. At least 28 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) would also be pressed into relief and rescue work and 20 of them have already reached the vulnerable area.
About 10 helicopters have been kept in West Bengal for air-dropping of relief materials as operation at Biju Patnaik airport in Bhubaneswar may get affected by the rough we