Odisha raises warning level, 'Cyclone Phailin' intensifies

Bhubaneswar, Oct 9 IANS) Odisha Thursday raised its warning level as cyclonic storm "Phailin" over east central Bay of Bengal was gaining strength and moving slowly towards the east coast, officials said.

The distant storm warning signal number has been raised to two from the earlier one at the state's Paradip and Gopalpur ports, an official of the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre told IANS.

The storm moved slightly northwest, and lay centred at about 850 km off the port town of Paradip.

"It would intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm during next two days, before making landfall between Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Paradip by Saturday night with a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 kilometers per hour", the official said.

The system will bring lashing rain and strong winds to the state's coastal belt, the official at the state's met department said.

The state government has made elaborate preparations to meet any eventualities, and directed collectors of 14 cyclone-prone districts to deploy relief and rescue officials at vulnerable points. People will also be evacuated from low-laying areas to safer places if the need is felt for such a measure.

"We have asked all the concerned officials to stay prepared and conduct mock drills of relief and rescue forces. We have asked them to keep adequate food items, boats and tree cutting equipment ready," Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra told IANS.

He said the state has about 50 satellite phones and officials were ensuring that they work properly in case there was disruption in telephone services.

Round-the-clock control rooms have been activated in the district headquarters towns, including in the highly cyclone-prone Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Ganjam, Puri and Kendrapada.

A state level control room set up at state capital Bhubaneswar was coordinating with control rooms in the districts.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held a meeting of top officials Wednesday to review the preparedness for dealing with the cyclone. Such meetings are expected on a day-to-day basis.

"We are fully prepared, and we have adequate boats and food items ready. Disaster forces have been kept on standby. We may evacuate people from low laying areas later, if such a step is necessary," Satya Kumar Mullick, collector of Jagatsinghpur district, told IANS.

A super cyclone had struck 14 coastal districts of the state Oct 29-31, 1999.

Around 10,000 people were killed that year, as high velocity winds, blowing at nearly 300 km per hour, destroyed homes.

This year, hundreds of families living in villages close to the sea have started moving from low-laying areas to safer places on their own, fearful for their lives.

Large numbers of people were also seen stocking up on essential food items and candles in several places of the coastal regions, as they spent over a week without basic services like electricity, water, sanitation, health care, and communication and transport systems during the 1999 cyclone.

Food prices soared in many places, including in state capital Bhubaneswar, as some unscrupulous traders allegedly hoarded these to earn larger sums of money, in case things got worse.

"We bought five kg potatoes at Rs.15 a kg, three rupees higher than normal prices," Soumendra Mohanty, a resident of the state capital, said.

--IANS (Posted on 10-10-2013)

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