Bhubaneswar/Amaravati/New Delhi, May 2: A massive operation was launched in Odisha on Thursday to evacuate some eight lakh people from low-lying coastal areas as the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani (pronounced Foni) advanced towards the state while incessant rain lashed parts of the state.
The evacuation started in the morning and as many as 800,000 people have evacuated from low-lying areas of 14 districts of the state.
Around 3001 cyclone shelters, school and college buildings and other important structures have been kept ready for the evacuees with food, water and health assistance.
The India Meteorological Department said Fani lay centred over West Central Bay of Bengal about 430 km south-southwest of Puri, 225 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and 650 km south-southwest of Digha in West Bengal.
It is likely to move north-north-eastwards and cross the Odisha coast near Puri on May 3 evening with maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph and gusting up to 200 kmph.
The Odisha government in an advisory asking the people across the state to remain indoors from Friday morning as the cyclonic storm which would hit the Odisha coast on Friday.
Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been put on high alert.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu shared information and reviewed with officials on the steps being taken to meet the challenge and reduce the damage while in New Delhi Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting to review preparedness for facing the cyclone.
"We are fully prepared, there is no need for fear or panic," tweeted Patnaik.
The prime minister was briefed on the likely path of the cyclone, and the ongoing precautionary and preparatory measures being undertaken. These include provision of adequate resources; deployment of teams from NDRF and the armed forces; arrangements to provide drinking water; and standby systems to restore power and telecom services.
The meeting was attended by the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the PM, the Additional Principal Secretary to the PM, the Home Secretary, and other senior officials from the IMD, NDRF, NDMA and PMO.
The Indian Railways cancelled 81 trains in view of the cyclone and also run special trains to help people leave the pilgrim town of Puri.
Indigo cancelled flights to and from Visakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar on Thursday. All GoAir flights to and from from Bhubaneswar will remain cancelled on Friday.
Premium airline Vistara is offering change and cancellation fee for Bhubaneswar and Kolkata flights for travel between Thursday and Sunday.
The Airport authority of India (AAI) has issued alerts to all coastal airports, asking that all precautions and standard operating procedures be put into place immediately in view of Cyclone Fani.
"Situation will be monitored at the highest level. Airlines and all others to be fully ready," tweeted Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu.
India's biggest oil and gas producer ONGC has evacuated close to 500 of its employees from offshore installations in the Bay of Bengal and moved drilling rigs to safer locations.
NDRF teams spread awareness in Jhargram and Purba Medinipur in West Bengal. (UNI)