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Cyclone Phailin hits coast; heavy rains in Odisha, Andhra
Saturday October 12, 2013 10:42 PM, IANS

Cyclonic storm Phailin Saturday night started making landfall near Gopalpur in Odisha, triggering heavy rains and strong winds with speed reaching up to 200 km an hour on the eastern coast while more than 500,000 people were shifted to safety in coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

Strong winds uprooted trees, electricity and communication poles and thatched roofs in coastal Odisha and north coastal Andhra.

Seven deaths were reported from Odisha due to uprooting of trees and house collapse while there were no immediate reports of any casualty in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Several parts of coastal Odisha and Srikakulam district of Andhra plunged into darkness at the time of landfall. Authorities have advised people to remain indoors till the wind speed comes down.

The eye of the storm touched the coast near Gopalpur and it will take an hour to completely cross the coast, India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General L. S. Rathore told reporters in New Delhi.

He said the wind speed could increase by 10 to 15 km an hour and the very severe storm would maintain its intensity for six hours after crossing the coast. Storm surges of 3 to 3.5 meters are also likely along the coast. Another six hours, it is likely to continue as cyclonic storm.

Rathore said the threat was not over as heavy to very heavy rains in coming hours might trigger floods.

The IMD has forecast rains over the next 48 hours in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and adjoining states.

The storm is expected to inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, said officials.

Over four lakh people in Odisha and one lakh people in north coastal Andhra were evacuated to safer places. The army, navy and air force and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were on alert for rescue and relief work.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said 4.5 lakh people were evacuated from low-lying areas in Odisha and another one lakh in Andhra.

"On the whole, 12,000 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are deployed in Odisha and 600 in Andhra Pradesh," said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vice Chairman Shashidhar Reddy.

Twenty three teams of NDRF are deployed in Odisha, whereas there are 11 teams in Andhra Pradesh, he said.

"Crops will be the worst hit due to the cyclone," Reddy said.

He also said that of all the resources available with the NDMA, 40 percent will be used in Ganjam district in Odisha, which is likely to bear the maximum damage.

All flights were cancelled at Bhubaneswar airport while the railways cancelled 56 trains between Howrah and Visakhapatnam and diverted some trains. Eighteen fishermen, who went for fishing in the Bay of Bengal in a trawler over a week ago, were stranded in the sea in Astaranga area of Puri district. The Coast Guard has been told to rescue them, police told IANS.

Andhra Pradesh's Disaster Management Commissioner T. Radha said winds with speed of 180 km an hour uprooted trees and electricity and communication poles in Srikakulam district. He said the electricity supply was also disrupted.

He said there was not much impact of the cyclone so far in Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy Saturday night held a meeting with officials to review the situation. He directed the officials to take all measures to provide immediate relief to people.

Reddy said all departments were on alert for rescue and relief work. Ministers and special officers in the coastal districts were monitoring the situation.

The army, navy, air force and the National Disaster Response Force were ready to take up rescue work. Boats were also kept ready along with wireless sets.

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