Phailin, which was formed over North Andaman sea two days ago as a low pressure area, Thursday developed into a severe cyclonic storm with a well-marked eye in its centre as it moved northwestwards. Met Department officials in Bhubaneswar said Phailin would continue to move northwestwards and make landfall close to Gopalpur on sea in Ganjam district, which will bear the cyclone's brunt, by Saturday evening. By the time Phailin hits the coast, it would have a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 km/hour, with gusts reaching up to 200 km/hour. "In comparison to the 1999 supercyclone, Phailin is just a notch below. We expect it to wreak massive damage after hitting the coast," an official said.
In 1999, almost 10,000 people died and 19 lakh houses were damaged in 14 districts.
Patnaik, who cancelled puja holidays for government employees in all 30 districts and called off his proposed Delhi trip, Thursday wrote to Antony seeking choppers for relief and rescue operations as Phailin is expected to be accompanied by heavy rainfall from Sunday morning. "Past experience indicates that despite the state government's preparedness, impact of a very severe cyclonic storm requires support of the Defence forces," Naveen wrote. "I would request you to kindly consider issuing standing instructions to the Defence forces, specially the Air Force and the Navy, to remain in readiness to extend support to the state administration."
The cyclone would also affect interior Orissa and large parts of coastal Orissa, including Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Puri and Balasore.
Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra said all employees would have work even on Sunday. "We would start evacuation of people living within 5 km of the coast in Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts to safer places," said Mohapatra.
Mohapatra said all mobile service providers have been asked to ensure that their towers are repaired immediately if they get damaged. All district collectors have satellite phones to keep in touch with the state secretariat in Bhubaneswar in case of a communication failure.
Cyclone Phailin: Turbulence ahead
Saturday evening in Gopalpur in Orissa's Ganjam district
Maximum wind speed
Height of waves
1.5-2 metres above the normal tide
Within 5 km of the coast
Around 600 NDRF men, IAF choppers and the Navy
Massive crop damage expected, low-lying areas likely to be flooded because of high waves, cyclone also likely to hit Andhra, Jharkhand and West Bengal.