A very severe cyclonic storm hit the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh coast early on Thursday morning, bringing with it heavy rain and winds gusting at 140-150 kmph.
Cyclone Titli, the strongest cyclone to have formed over the Bay of Bengal this year, is expected to cross the Odisha coast over the next two hours, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
“The process of landfall has started and it will completely cross the Odisha coast in one or two hours. The system will pass close to Gopalpur,” HR Biswas, director of Metereological Centre, Bhubaneswar, told PTI. (Follow live updates here)
“The forward sector of the eye of the storm has been entering into the land mass,” the IMD added. While Gopalpur in Odisha reported surface winds at 126 kmph, Kalingapatanam in Andhra Pradesh recorded wind speed of 56 kmph.
As the landfall process started, at least five districts like Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda and Jagatsinghpur are receiving good amount of rainfall coupled with high speed winds under the impact of Titli.
The storm is expected to gradually weaken and re-curve northeastwards and move towards Gangetic West Bengal across Odisha by Thursday afternoon, Biswas said, adding the that Titli is being monitored by the coastal Doppler Weather Radars at Visakhapatnam, Gopalpur and Paradip.
The latest observations indicate that ‘Titli’, over west-central Bay of Bengal moved north-northwestwards with a speed of about 19 kmph during the past six hours.
The heavy overnight rainfall left trees and electric poles uprooted, while officials said kuchha houses were damaged. Road communication in some places, including Gopalpur and Berhampur, was snapped, according to PTI.
Meanwhile, the Odisha government has geared up its machinery to tackle the situation. Before Titli made landfall, over three lakh people from five coastal districts were evacuated as a precautionary step.
Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said collectors of 17 of the state’s 30 districts have been put on red alert, the highest state of emergency preparedness, over the possibility of heavy to very heavy rainfall. These districts are Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Dhenkanal, Kandhamal, Boudh, Cuttack, Jajpur, Khurda, Nayagarh, Kalahandi, Koraput and Rayagada.
The Centre also rushed nearly 1,000 NDRF personnel to Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal on Wednesday besides issuing directions for storage of food, fuel and maintaining power supply and telecommunication lines. Odisha chief secretary AP Padhi said all schools and colleges in the state were shut for the next two days, and students union elections in colleges scheduled for Thursday have been cancelled.
The East Coast Railway zone stopped movement of all trains on the Chennai-Howrah section from Wednesday afternoon till further orders. Some trains were cancelled too. The Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar closed its night parking from Wednesday night. Indigo airlines cancelled 5 of its flights originating from Bhubaneswar. The cancelled flights include two for Delhi, one each for Kolkata, Bengaluru and Mumbai. The incoming flights from these destinations have also been cancelled, said airport director Suresh Hota.