Yaas weakened into a severe cyclonic storm on Wednesday afternoon after pounding the beach towns in north Odisha and neighbouring West Bengal with a wind speed of 130-145 kmph, inundating the low-lying areas amid a storm surge even as the two eastern states battled the COVID crisis, officials said.
Yaas, which was earlier classified as a very severe cyclonic storm, hit the coast north of Dhamra in Odisha’s Bhadrak district and 50 km south of Balasore, close to Bahanaga block, around 9 am, they said.
The landfall process was over around 1.30 pm, they added.
Seawater entered several villages in Bahanaga and Remuna blocks in the Balasore district, and Dhamra and Basudevpur in the Bhadrak district, Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said.
The administration with the help of the locals is taking measures to drain out the saline water from the villages, he said.
Heavy rainfall in the Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district sparked fears of a flash flood in the Budhabalang river. In the afternoon, the water level in the river was at 21 metre against the danger level of 27 metre, Jena said.
The Mayurbhanj district administration has started evacuating certain vulnerable points on both sides of the river and also from some low-lying areas in the Baripada town, he said.
Restoration works for power lines have started in some places in Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Jajpur district after cables were snapped, Jena said, adding that not much damage was caused in these districts.
Local sources said that a person was killed in Panchupalli village in Anadapur block of Kenojhar district after a tree fell on him but there was no official confirmation of the death. The man was identified as Purna Chandra Nayak.
Besides, a man was injured in the Balasore district after he was hit by a falling tree, Jena said.
The sea will remain rough till Thursday and the accompanying rain will continue, he said.
The wind will slow down by the evening and the cyclone is likely to leave Odisha for Jharkhand by midnight, Jena said.
Odisha shifted 5.8 lakh people to safer places, while West Bengal moved 15 lakh people ahead of the cyclone, amid concerns over following COVID-19 norms at the temporary shelters as the two states battled the pandemic, reporting thousands of new cases daily.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that one crore people were affected by the cyclone in the state.
Three lakh houses were damaged due to the cyclone, she said.
She claimed that West Bengal was the most affected state due to the cyclone.
“At least one crore people in Bengal have been affected by this natural disaster. As of now, three lakh houses have been damaged. One person died an accidental death even after he was rescued,” the chief minister said.
Relief materials worth Rs 10 crore were sent to the affected areas, she said.
The resort town of Digha in East Midnapore, which shares a border with Balasore district of Odisha, was completely inundated with the Army being called in for rescue operations, a defence official said.
The nearby beach resorts of Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur were also flooded with seawaters entering the hotels and flooding the roads, besides causing damage to kutcha shops and houses. In certain areas, the waves even went past the top of coconut trees that line these popular beaches.
The Army has deployed 17 columns in West Bengal to assist the state administration, the defence official said.
Rescue operation by the Army was also on at Orphuli in the Howrah district, he said.
In South 24 Parganas, many places, including Kakdwip, Fraserganj, Gosaba and Maipith in the Sunderbans region were flooded, displacing lakhs of villagers as thousands of kutcha houses were extensively damaged in the surging water and gale wind, officials said.
Several rivers in the riverine delta region were in spate owing to the phenomenal rise in water level caused by the dual effect of storm surge from the cyclone and the astronomical tide due to the full moon, they said.
Flooding was also reported from Sagar island at the confluence of Hooghly and Bay of Bengal. The water level rose to nearly five feet in front of the famed Kapil Muni temple near the beach on the island, officials said.
Some fishing boats and equipment were also destroyed at harbours in Kakdwip, leaving the fishermen devoid of their livelihood.
“We will starve unless the government provides us with assistance,” said a hapless villager at Kakdwip as his boat lay broken into pieces.
The Kolkata Port was on tenterhook for a while as Hooghly swelled to eight meters, surpassing the heights of the external lock gate of the Haldia Dock System, an official said.
Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state police and civil defence volunteers were working round-the-clock to move people to safety, officials said.
Waterlogging was also reported from certain low-lying areas of Kolkata with the authorities facing a tough time in pumping out due to the high tide in Hooghly, they said.
The weather office has forecast extremely heavy rainfall in East and West Midnapore districts and heavy to very heavy rainfall in Jhargram, Bankura, South 24 Parganas districts over the next 24 hours.
Heavy rain will occur at isolated places in Purulia, Nadia, Murshidabad, Purba Bardhaman, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts owing to the effect of ‘Yaas’, the weather office said.
In Odisha, a red warning of heavy to very heavy rainfall was issued for nine districts.
“Heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with isolated extremely heavy fall very likely to occur over the districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal,” the weather office said.
The system lay centred at about 15 kilometre west of Balasore at 1.30 pm with intensity of 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph. It would move north-northwestwards and weaken gradually into a cyclonic storm during the next six hours, the weather office said.
Jharkhand, which was already on high alert, continued evacuating low-lying areas amid the forecast that the cyclone would be hitting the state by midnight, officials in Ranchi said.
Operations are being executed on war-footing in the vulnerable areas in East and West Singhbhum, besides some other districts, in view of Yaas, Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told PTI.
East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan districts of the state are likely to witness “very high seas” situation with wind speed of 92-117 kmph, the weather office said.
“We are ready to deal with the situation and have formed rescue teams,” Director-General of Police Neeraj Sinha told PTI.