India: Bracing for a powerful Cyclone ‘Yaas’

    After being battered by Cyclone Taukate on the west coast last week, India is again bracing for a powerful Cyclone that is expected to make landfall on 26 May. The state governments of West Bengal and Odisha have already started evacuating thousands of people from coastal areas.

    Ahead of the landfall of Cyclone “Yaas”, India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has pre-positioned 18 teams in the eastern state of Odisha and 11 teams in West Bengal. In both states, the NDRF, the military and the coast guard have been pressed into service. The Cyclone is likely to cross north Odisha and West Bengal between Paradip and Sagar islands by the evening of 26 May with wind speeds ranging from 155 to 165 km/h, along with gusts as high as 185 km/h.

    The Indian Air Force has deployed a C-130 aircraft to carry 21 tonnes of essential equipment and 334 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel from Patna, Varanasi and Tamil Nadu to Kolkata and Port Blair. The forces have formed teams equipped with boats, tree-cutters, and telecom equipment in states along the east coast for rescue operations. Arrangements for the stockpiling of grain, drinking water and other essential supplies have been made as well.

    “The IAF has kept a C-17, an IL-76, three C-130s, four An-32s and two Dornier transport aircraft on readiness. Additionally, 11 Mi-17V5s, two Chetaks, three Cheetahs, two ALH Dhruvs and seven Mi-17 helicopters are also on alert for any eventuality,” the Indian Air Force AF said in a statement.

    According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Depression over the East-central Bay of Bengal has intensified into a Deep Depression and is currently about 600 kilometres north-northwest of Port Blair. The Cyclone will intensify into a Cyclonic Storm by the morning of 24 May and further into a “Very Severe Cyclonic Storm” during the following 24 hours.

    The West Bengal government has begun evacuating people from the low-lying coast of the South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore districts. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that the state has taken all the precautions for the landfall and she will monitor the entire situation from the Secretariat’s control room. “All officials have been advised of integrated command, advance planning & early evacuation from coastal & river areas to rescue shelters including Cyclone and flood shelters, and to conduct relief and rehabilitation operations at the earliest,” she said.

    In May 2020, amid the first nationwide coronavirus fockdown, Super Cyclone Amphan made landfall on the Sagar Islands in South 24-Parganas, killing at least 100 people and causing grave devastation in West Bengal and Odisha.

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