Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed
A view of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (NSCBI) on Friday. All flights have been cancelled from the airport till Saturday evening in the wake of Cyclone Fani. Photo: IANS

Kolkata: Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to batter the Indian subcontinent in decades, uprooted trees and triggered rains as it entered West Bengal early morning on Saturday, hours after making landfall and causing havoc in Odisha on Friday.

No loss of life or any injury has been reported so far.

According to the Meteorological department, the extremely severe cyclonic storm relatively weakened after entering coastal Odisha and transformed into "very severe" as it approached Bengal.

"The severe cyclonic storm Fani entered Bengal at 12:30am through Odisha's Balasore. It crossed Kharagpur packing a wind of 70-80 kmph, gusting to 90 kmph," Regional Meteorological Centre's Deputy Director General Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, said.

The storm is now lying close to Arambagh in Hooghly district, and is 40 km west of Kolkata.

"It is likely to continue further in north, north east direction, and reach the east Burdwan-Hooghly border, and through Nadia go to Bangladesh on Saturday afternoon, weakening into a cyclonic storm, after having triggered rains," Bandyopadhyay said.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed
A glass door shatters during Cyclone Fani in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India May 3, 2019 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Photo: Reuters

Fani lashed cities and towns in coastal Bengal including Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Sandehskhali and Contai while the effects of the storm could also be felt in cities like Kharagpur and Burdwan as trees were uprooted and metal hoardings gave way.

Parts of Kolkata and the suburbs also received moderate to heavy rainfall since Friday afternoon.

The epicentre of the storm is expected to hit the city in the early hours on Saturday.

The rains would continue till early Saturday.

In the sea resort of Digha, the win speed reached 70 kmph in some areas, in Frazerganj the wind velocity was between 60 and 70 kmph.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed

Kharagpur has so far recorded 95 mm rainfall, which will continue for the next two to three hours.

"The rains will continue till early morning on Saturday, and the weather will start improving by evening," he said.

The administration has switched off electricity to prevent any accident as the storm passed through a particular point in the state.

8 killed in Odisha

Cyclone Fani barrelled through Odisha on Friday, unleashing copious rain and windstorm that gusted up to 175 kmph, killing at least eight people, blowing away thatched houses, and swamping towns and villages, officials said.

The extremely severe cyclonic storm 'Fani' or the 'Hood of Snake' made landfall around 8am on Friday in Puri, with roaring winds flattening huts, enveloping the pilgrim town in sheets of rain, and submerging homes.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed

Though the 'extremely severe' cyclone unexpectedly weakened into 'very severe' cyclonic storm in a matter of few hours, it left a trail of devastation in large parts of coastal Odisha, with the seaside pilgrim town of Puri being the worst hit.

At least eight people have been reported dead so far, senior officials said, adding information was still awaited from many areas.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed

While three people, including a teenage boy, were reported killed in Puri district, three perished in Bhubaneswar and nearby areas. Flying debris from a concrete structure fatally struck a woman in Nayagarh. An elderly woman died of heart attack at a relief shelter in Kendrapara district, official sources said.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed
Villagers sit on a vehicle as they leave for a safer place ahead of Cylcone Fani on the outskirts of Konark in the eastern state of Odisha, Thursday. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said nearly 12 lakh people were evacuated and shifted to safer locations within 24 hours ahead of the cyclone from about 10,000 villages and 52 urban agglomerations in probably the largest such exercise at the time of a natural calamity in the country.

The evacuees have been accommodated in over 4,000 shelters, including 880 specially designed cyclone centres where free cooked food is being served to them, he said.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed

Airports shut, trains cancelled

Flight operations at Bhubaneswar airport remained suspended on Friday, while Paradip and Gopalpur ports were also closed as a precautionary measures.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed
A view of the storm induced due to the landfall of Cyclone Fani in Odisha, along the coastal area of Digha, in West Midnapore district of West Bengal, Friday. Photo: PTI

Around 220 trains on Howrah-Chennai route have been cancelled keeping in view passengers' safety, an East Coast Railway (ECoR) official said.

The storm brought down the political temperature, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelling all her election rallies that were planned over the next 48 hours and getting down to monitoring the situation.

A red alert has been issued in coastal areas and fishermen have been asked not to venture into the sea.

Several districts including East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas besides, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans are likely to be hit by the storm that would then move towards Bangladesh and taper off.

No flights will depart or arrive at Kolkata airport till 6pm Saturday, aviation regulator DGCA said in New Delhi.

Cyclone Fani hits West Bengal, Kolkata airport closed
This Wednesday, May 1, 2019 photo provided by NASA shows a satellite view of Cyclone Fani.

The Jharkhand government issued an advisory on Friday, asking all district deputy commissioners to set up control rooms to meet any exigency in the wake of the cyclonic storm 'Fani'.

Equipment at the Bhubaneswar airport have been significantly damaged but flight operations are expected to begin by 1 pm Saturday, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement Friday.

"The passenger terminal building at Bhubaneswar has been considerably damaged, particularly at the rooftop and facades... Based on the feedback and action taken, it was decided that Bhubaneswar will resume commercial flight operations with effect from 1300 IST on May 4, 2019," the statement said.

As the rooftop of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower has been blown away, affecting very high frequency (VHF) antennas at the rooftop, the ministry said that alternate ATC arrangements have been made at the airport.

Cyclone Fani makes landfall in Puri

"There is also considerable damage to the perimeter wall of operational area to the extent of 600 metres at various places. Adequate security arrangements have been made to address the issue," the ministry said.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS)