Evacuation drives, rescue teams and command centres: States gear up for Cyclone Yaas

The NDRF has deployed more than 100 teams across five states, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, and Union Territory Andaman and Nicobar, for rescue and relief.

As Cyclone Yaas looms closer to the eastern shores of India, states like Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have sprung into action to ensure minimum loss of life and property.

In the next 24 hours, Cyclone Yaas is expected to intensify into a “very severe cyclonic storm”, HR Biswas, Director of India Meteorological Department (IMD) Bhubaneshwar, told news agency ANI. It will make its landfall somewhere close to Paradip and Sagar islands around the evening hours of May 26.

In a review meeting with chief ministers of the states concerned and representatives of Central ministries, Union Home Minister Amit Shah emphasised on evacuation of people from vulnerable areas. He also asked states to ensure their Covid infrastructure was not disrupted.

Rescue operations to tackle both cyclone, Covid

With an aim to tackle the cyclone amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pradeep Kumar Jena, Special Relief Commissioner of Odisha, has stated that arrangements have been made for a smooth evacuation following Covid norms.

“Oxygen plants are being given alternative power backups. Adequate buffer oxygen stocks are being made available to Covid hospitals in the cyclone-prone area,” he said.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has also directed its rescue teams to ensure that the country’s major medical oxygen generation plants based in Odisha and West Bengal are “running and alive” during Cyclone Yaas, news agency PTI reported citing a senior official.

The NDRF has deployed more than 100 teams across five states, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, and Union Territory Andaman and Nicobar, for rescue and relief.

‘Massive evacuation drives’ and warnings issued in Odisha

Jena told news agency PTI that a massive evacuation drive will be launched in all low-lying areas and vulnerable storm-surge pockets.

A large contingent of rescue and relief teams has been rushed to Balasore district in Odisha, where Yaas is likely to make landfall. The IMD has predicted a tidal surge of 2-4.5 meters at the landfall of Yaas, making it necessary to evacuate the residents in the area.

Warnings have also been issued by the IMD to fishermen to not venture into the Bay of Bengal during May 24-25.

“Those who are out in the Deep Sea of north and adjoining central Bay of Bengal are advised to return to the coast (sic),” a tweet by the IMD read.

In Bhadrak, another district in the landfall zone, the police sensitised the fishermen of the dangers of venturing into the sea at this time.

The Odisha Police has instituted a dedicated helpline number 06784250007 in case of any emergency during the cyclone. Citizens can also dial 112 for help. A centralised control room has been created to “monitor pre-cyclonic preparedness, and post cyclonic repair and restoration works.”

More than 800 personnel of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force have been readied, the police stated in a tweet. They will be equipped with rescue tools like tower and search lights, hydra cranes, inflatable boats, high end hydraulic tree cutters, gas cutters, plasma cutters, sat phones and walkie talkie sets.

CM Banerjee to remain in command centre in West Bengal

In a Twitter thread on Saturday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that she had reviewed the disaster management preparedness with all senior officers of relevant Central and state agencies.

“All officials have been advised integrated command, advance planning and early evacuation from coastal and riverine areas to rescue shelters including cyclone and flood shelters, and to conduct relief and rehabilitation operations at the earliest,” the chief minister added.

Dedicated helpline numbers 033-22143526 and 1070 have also been set up for emergencies during the cyclone.

Requesting everyone to stay alert, she added that relief materials have been dispatched and ‘Quick Response Teams’ mobilised.

An official told PTI that Banerjee will remain present at the control room in Nabanna on the days when the cyclone is about to hit the coastal areas of the state. Several small control centres have also been set up for the coastal areas, apart from the centralised command centre.

While ships have been tied with ropes at the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata as precaution, the Indian Coast Guard announced on Monday that all 265 boats, which were reported to be in the Bay of Bengal by fisheries authorities, have returned to harbour.

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