Bengal braces for stormy weekend as Fani approaches
Kolkata: With less than 24 hours left for Cyclone Fani to make landfall in neighbouring Odisha coast, the West Bengal government and civic bodies on Thursday worked on war footing to cope with the storm set to travel across state starting early Saturday.
The state government and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation are bracing for a severely stormy weekend. During the day decision was taken to shift people living in low lying areas to safer places. Schools were asked to prepone summer vacations as Fani hovered around 835 km southwest of Kolkata and 650 km south-southwest of Digha.
"We have heard that the cyclone has turned towards Bengal and it will also hit Kolkata. But people should not panic unnecessarily. All precautionary steps are being taken to prevent any loss of life," city mayor Firhad Hakim told the reporters.
With squally winds at 70 to 80 kmph gusting up to 100 kmph expected to accompany showers starting late Friday, advertisers have been 'instructed to remove hoardings' which could prove dangerous, Hakim said.
Steps were also afoot to 'accommodate occupants of dilapidated buildings in nearby schools'. Heavy to very heavy rains were predicted over Medinipur, 24 South Parganas, Kolkata, Howrah, Bankura, Hooghly and Bardhaman, the Skymet said.
By Saturday, rains will cover central parts of the state -- Krishnanagar, Birbhum, Murshidabad, and Malda. Skymet has predicted light to moderate rains, along with one or two heavy spells over these areas.
By Sunday, the cyclonic storm Fani was expected to lose strength and move towards Bangladesh. As a result, weather would gradually start clearing up over the entire state, the weather forcaster said.
Hawkers have been instructed to keep away from the streets.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has formed a team along with various departments like the Police and Disaster Management to monitor the measures being initiated to prevent any untoward happenings.
"The pumping stations will be on alert mode from Friday. The Public Health Engineering Department is ready with water pouches and relief materials," Hakim added.
"We are requesting all the schools to declare holiday, especially on Saturday. The corporation schools have already given a circular for holiday till Saturday," he said.
The state Education Department issued a circular to the schools to prepone the summer holidays in government and government aided schools and requested the ICSE and CBSE board schools to do the same.
The district administrations in the coastal areas were constantly announcing the precaution and measure that every person must take to avoid any accident or disaster.
"The cyclone is very likely to move north-northeastwards and cross Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, around Puri during May 3 afternoon with a maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph gusting to 200 kmph," the Regional Meteorological Centre here said in a special bulletin.
Also, power and communication poles most likely to get uprooted, kutcha and pucca roads damaged, railway services disrupted and there could be widespread damages to standing crops and plantations, it said.
The East Midnapore District administration has been asked to take all preventive measures and maintain a strict vigil on the Digha, Mandarmani and other beaches so as to stop visitors from bathing during the next three days as the sea would be turbulent.
Steps have been taken in the coastal areas of Digha to prevent people from going near the sea.