At least three people were killed and over 200 sustained injuries as cyclone Fani, one of the biggest storms to come off the Indian Ocean in recent years, battered the state Odisha, uprooting trees and leaving large areas of seaside pilgrim town Puri submerged.
Special Relief Commissioner B P Sethi said that these people were reported dead in different incidents in Puri, Nayagarh and Kendrapara districts.
While a teenage boy was killed when a tree collapsed on him in Puri, flying debris from a concrete structure left a woman dead in Nayagarh. An elderly woman died of heart attack at a relief shelter in Kendrapara district.
After the landfall, the system is passing through Khurda, Cuttack, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore before it would enter West Bengal, Sethi said, adding that Bhubaneswar was likely to be hit by a high-velocity wind of around 140 km/h.
Telecommunication lines got snapped in several parts of state capital Bhubaneswar and several other areas. Mobile towers were damaged and the power supply was disconnected in many places.
A Bhubaneswar report said scores of trees collapsed, blocking roads.
Director of Regional Meteorological Centre in Bhubaneswar, H R Biswas, said the cyclonic system, whose eye is around 28 km wide, is moving at around 30 km/h.
But within the system, the winds are reaching speeds of up to 175 kilometres per hour that may go up to 200 km/h, leaving in their wake uprooted trees and thatched structures, including in the state capital Bhubaneswar.
As Fani pummelled Odisha, neighbouring West Bengal braced itself for its fury.
The sky was overcast in Kolkata and several other places since Friday morning as rain came in spurts, inundating several parts of the state capital.
Traffic snarls were reported from different places in the city.
Arrangements have been made to start free kitchens at the cyclone shelters. Around 4,000 such shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres, are housing the evacuees.
Over one lakh dry food packets have been kept ready for air dropping for which two choppers requisitioned, the SRC said.
There will be heavy rains and strong winds in all coastal districts, along the cyclone path: Puri, Khurda, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore. The rains will subside from Saturday.
Heavy rains and gale have uprooted several trees in Puri town and along the Puri-Konark marine drive. Many trees have been uprooted in Ganjam and Gajapati districts, too.
As many as 10.85 lakh people living in thatch houses close to the sea have been evacuated in what is the biggest evacuation exercise in the state, the SRC said. More than one lakh people have been shifted to cyclone shelters in Puri district alone, Collector Jyoti Prakash Das said.
Airports in Bhubaneswar and Kolkata have been closed.
No flights will depart or arrive at Kolkata airport from 3 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday, aviation regulator DGCA said in New Delhi.
In a series of tweets, Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said Friday that all airlines must immediately respond to the concerns of passengers affected by Cyclone Fani.
"We are ready to offer the help needed for the stranded due to cyclonic storm Fani. The control room, helplines are manned all times to assist affected passengers. All Airlines must immediately respond to the concerns of passengers," he tweeted.
Prabhu also said his ministry will work with the governments of the affected states to assist them in rescue and relief operations.
More than 220 trains on the Kolkata-Chennai route have been cancelled until Saturday.
(With inputs from PTI)
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