Amphan, which intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal early morning, intensified into a super cyclone on Monday afternoon, the Indian Met Department said.
Amphan is likely to cross West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts on May 20 as very severe cyclonic storm, IMD said.
Thousands are being evacuated in Odisha from vulnerable areas on the state’s coast, Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said.
On Sunday night, Amphan had intensified into a very severe cyclonic storm, attaining a maximum wind speed of 170 to 180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph.
The MeT department has issued an ‘orange’ warning for West Bengal.
The cyclone, according to IMD, will cross the coast somewhere between Digha in West Bengal and Hatiya Islands in Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon or evening as a very severe cyclonic storm with maximum sustained wind speed of 155 to 165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph before losing some steam ahead of landfall.
IMD said the high-velocity winds may cause extensive damage to mud houses and partial damage to ‘pucca’ structures. The winds may also lead to bending or uprooting of power and communication poles, minor disruption of railways and may affect overhead power lines and signalling systems and also cause widespread damage to standing crops, plantations, orchards, it said.
Regional MeT Director in Kolkata G K Das had said on Sunday that the system was very likely to lose some power as it approached landfall.
The Met Department issued a rainfall warning for several parts of Odisha coast for the next four days.
Coastal districts like Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak and Balasore are likely to experience heavy rainfall accompanied by high-velocity winds, particularly on May 19 and 20, he said.
Personnel of the NDRF were deployed on Sunday in West Bengal and Odisha, which said it was ready to undertake massive evacuation of 11 lakh people likely to be severely hit by Amphan, officials said.
“The trajectory is mostly towards West Bengal, Sagar Islands and probably towards Bangladesh.... But we have to watch the trajectory very closely. NDRF has deployed the teams well in advance. They are either deployed or moving towards the destination,” SN Pradhan, the chief of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said in New Delhi on Sunday.
As it rolls in towards the Indian shores, the cyclone is likely to unleash heavy rain and high-velocity winds in large swathes of coastal Odisha and West Bengal.
Odisha, which has been ravaged by a string of cyclones over the last few years, including the cyclone Fani last year, has made arrangements to shift 11 lakh people from vulnerable areas,SRC Jena said.
Twelve coastal districts ― Ganjam, Gajapti, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurda and Nayagarh― are on high alert.
He said of the 809 cyclone shelters in the 12 coastal districts, 242 are being used as temporary medical camps for returnees from different states amid the COVID- 19 lockdown.
“We have 567 cyclone and flood shelters available to house the people in case evacuation is required. In addition, we have arranged 7,092 buildings to keep people if required,” Jena said.
“Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), NDRF and fire service personnel have already been sent to the districts. We are also in constant touch with the Indian Coast Guard, IMD and NDRF for any requirement,” he said, adding “saving lives is our priority”.
In Odisha, 10 NDRF teams have been deployed in seven districts ― Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj. One team of NDRF consists of around 45 personnel.
Odisha has already chalked out the strategy to restore power and water supply, clear roads, start rescue and relief operations immediately after the cyclone peters out.
On migrants returning to the state and also travelling through it, Jena said that in view of the impending cyclone, the state government will stop road movement for three days from the evening of May 18 to May 20.
The district collectors have been asked to direct the border checkposts not to allow entry of anyone during the period, he said.
Unlike past cyclones when the evacuees were kept in large numbers at cyclone shelters, it will be different this time as around 11 lakh people will have to be accommodated while maintaining the social distancing guidelines in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jena said.
Fishermen have been advised not to venture into north Bay of Bengal along and off West Bengal-Odisha coasts from May 18 to 21 and those who are out in the sea, were asked to return to shore by May 17.
West Bengal Home secretary Alapan Bandopdhyay said that the entire state machinery is prepared to deal with the situation.
The coastal districts of Gangetic West Bengal, including North and South 24 Parganas, Kolkata, East and West Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly are likely to experience light to moderate rain at many places with heavy downpour at isolated places on May 19, said GK Das, Director of the Regional Meteorological Centre in Kolkata.
The NDRF said seven teams of the force have been deployed in West Bengal. These teams are in six districts ― South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Howrah and Hooghly.
Disaster management teams were dispatched to cyclone shelters in the coastal areas and other places for rescue and relief operations. Provisions have been made for maintaining social distancing norms at these shelters in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has also prepared itself for maritime search and rescue operations.
The railways said the AC special trains between New Delhi and Bhubaneswar will be diverted for four days from Monday. The trains will travel on diverted route via Bhubaneswar-Angul-Sambalpur City-Jharsuguda-Rourkela-Tata route, bypassing Bhadrak-Balasore-Hijli track during the period.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met under Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Saturday to review the preparedness for minimising the loss of loss of lives and property at a time when the country is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.
(With PTI inputs)