Key senior officials of the Government of India are reportedly attending a meeting in the Home Ministry to review the state of preparedness for countering the after effects of Cyclone Phailin, which is expected to hit the coastal areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh late on Saturday evening.
According to television reports, Home Secretary Anil Goswami is presiding over the meeting of the disaster management committee. Times Now reported that the secretaries of power, water, food, senior railway officials, and resident commissioners of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha are some of the officials attending the meeting on the orders of the central government. Further details are awaited.
Meanwhile, at least 65,000 people in at least five districts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are to be evacuated by rescue and relief teams. Several thousand have already been moved to shelters in anticipation of the landfall. Forty nine teams of the National Disaster Response Force have also been deployed in anticipation of the natural calamity.
Television images show that large waves are already pounding beaches in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh a day before the arrival of Cyclone Phailin. Villagers are being moved to safer heights in both states.
Satellite images show Cyclone Phailin to be about 500 kilometers off the coast in the Bay of Bengal and is likely to make a landfall on Saturday evening, with widespread flooding expected from surges.
The images showed the storm covering an area roughly half the size of India. Some forecasters likened its size and intensity to that of “Hurricane Katrina”, which devastated the US Gulf coast and New Orleans in 2005.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has asked Defence Minister to keep teams of the army, navy and air force on stand-by to help in the impending situation.
The Indian Meteorological Department said Phailin would hit between Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and the major port of Paradip in Odisha state and predicted flooding from expected storm surges of about three meters (10 feet) above normal tides.
The department further described it as a "very severe cyclonic storm" with wind speeds of 210-220 km per hour (130-135 mph) and resisted upgrading it to a stronger "super cyclone.
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center has predicted wind speeds of 315 kph.
Authorities in the two states have warned of extensive damage to crops, village dwellings and old buildings, as well as disruption of power, water and rail services. Shelters were being stocked with rations, and leave for government employees for Dussehra have been cancelled.