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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - CALCUTTA — Cyclone Yaas pounded the coastal areas in north Odisha and neighboring West Bengal as it made landfall around 9 a.m. on Wednesday with a wind speed of 130 kmph. More than a million people in India have been evacuated as the cyclone made landfall on its eastern coast.
According to news agency PTI, the rising river water levels due to the landfall of Cyclone Yaas inundated large parts of Bengal’s coastal districts of Purba Medinipur and South 24 Parganas, as sea waves were seen touching coconut treetops and cars floating in floodwaters.
The storm, which has now weakened into a ‘severe cyclonic storm’ category, made landfall in Odisha on Wednesday morning and crossed the northern Odisha coast about 20 km south of Balasore between 10:30-11:30 a.m. with an estimated wind speed of 130-140 kmph, gusting to 150 kmph.
The Met department has predicted very heavy rain (more than 200 mm) over Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Keojhargharh and heavy showers over Puri, Khurda, Angul, Deogarh, Sundergarh districts of Odisha on Wednesday.
The department has also predicted light to moderate rainfall at isolated places in West Bengal today while Jharkhand is likely to receive heavy to very heavy rain today and tomorrow.
Jharkhand was put on high alert on Wednesday amid the forecast that cyclone Yaas would be hitting the state by midnight after pounding neighboring Odisha and West Bengal, officials said. Civil and military authorities have made widespread arrangements to tackle the impact of Cyclone Yaas.
This is the second cyclone to hit the country in a week, after Cyclone Tauktae killed more than 150 people. It comes as India is already struggling to deal with its COVID-19 outbreak.
Yaas lashed coastal areas with ferocious wind and rain as it made landfall, damaging buildings. India's meteorological department said low-lying areas near the coast have been inundated due to the rain and tidal surges accompanying the cyclone.
Army teams have been deployed to rescue 32 people stranded in a coastal district because of a storm surge. Weather department officials say they expect wind speeds of 140km/h (87mph) gusting to 155km/h (96mph) as the cyclone completes the process of landfall over the next few hours.
District officials in Orissa and West Bengal states say there are millions of people living in vulnerable coastal areas. Nearly 1,200 rescue shelters have been sanitized in line with COVID-19 safety norms, and health teams have been deployed there — but there are worries that it will be difficult to maintain social distancing protocols as more than a million are evacuated to shelters, according to news agency ANI.
The Indian Coast Guard said on Twitter that all 265 fishing boats reported to be at sea in the Bay of Bengal have safely returned to harbor. Disaster response teams, aircraft and ships are on standby as the storm bears down on the east coast.
The Indian army has deployed 17 rescue and relief teams consisting of specialized personnel with equipment and inflatable boats. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu states on the east coast are also likely to be affected, with more than 50 rescue teams having been sent to these states.
Airports in Bhubaneswar in Orissa, and Kolkata in West Bengal have suspended all operations until Wednesday evening.
Seawater entered several villages in Bahanaga and Remuna blocks in the Balasore district, and Dhamra and Basudevpur in the Bhadrak district, Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said. The administration with the help of the locals is taking measures to drain out the saline water from the villages, he said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has also lauded the rescue effort. "Appreciate the quick response from the team of @NDRFHQ and Erasama BDO to rescue 10 people from a capsized boat in the river, during a courageous night time rescue operation," he said in a tweet.
To ensure early restoration in Cyclone Yaas affected districts, restoration work is being done on a war footing in different parts of the state, the Office of Odisha CM tweeted.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will visit areas affected by the cyclone and high tide in Purba Medinipur, South and North 24 Parganas on Friday. "We have sent relief worth Rs 1 crore to areas affected by cyclone and high tide," she said.
The NDRF, along with the district administration of Jagatsinghpur in Odisha, has rescued 10 people from a river after their boat capsized, amid rough weather conditions under the influence of Cyclone Yaas, news agency PTI reported.
Jagatsinghpur district collector Sangram K Mohapatra said in a tweet on Wednesday, "Fantastic work by NDRF and BDO, Erasama during #CycloneYaas rescuing 10 people in the late night from a river after their boat capsized." He further said that the arduous operation was carried out in the midst of light drizzle and 45-kmph wind speed.
Jharkhand, which was put on high alert, continued evacuating low-lying areas on Wednesday amid the forecast that cyclone Yaas would be hitting the state by midnight after pounding neighboring Odisha and West Bengal, officials said.
Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told news agency PTI, "Operations are being executed on war-footing in the vulnerable areas in East and West Singhbhum, besides some other districts, in view of the very severe Cyclone Yaas."
"We are witnessing high-speed wind and have evacuated about 6,000 persons from thatched houses and danger zones to shelter homes in safer locations," East Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner Suraj Kumar said. People are being shifted from low-lying areas near the two rivers in the district that are below the danger mark at present, he added.
Officials said the surging waters have breached embankments at several places in the two coastal districts, inundating many villages and small towns. Water levels of several rivers including Bidyadhari, Hooghly and Rupnarayan have risen owing to Yaas and accompanying storm surge.
Banerjee later said, "In Midnapore 70 km embankment flooded and in South 24 Parganas at least 15 areas, sea water entered into the villages. The people of Nandigram also called me some time ago. They said, in Sonachura and Kendamari area already flooded."
She further said, "Because of high tide with cyclonic storm, it became havoc in the coastal districts. Already we evacuated 11.5 lakh people and requesting them not to return to their house. Because the situation will be worsen. We are saying that, please return house only when we will confirm that, no further devastation will happen."
According to the administration, the water level of Ganga is increasing in Kolkata also. All lock gates have already been closed to stop the river water from entering into the city area. All flyovers have also been closed due to possibility of high winds accompanied by heavy rainfall. — Agencies
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