Severe cyclone 'Remal' barrels towards Bengal coast; over 1 lakh shifted to shelters

Bengal's coastal areas have been put on high alert as the cyclone, accompanied by high-velocity winds, has already triggered rain in several parts of the state.
Disaster response force personnel deployed at a beach, ahead of the landfall of Cyclone 'Remal', in South 24 Parganas district, Sunday, May 26, 2024.
Disaster response force personnel deployed at a beach, ahead of the landfall of Cyclone 'Remal', in South 24 Parganas district, Sunday, May 26, 2024.

Kolkata | Severe cyclonic storm 'Remal' has intensified and is expected to make landfall between the coasts of Bangladesh and adjoining West Bengal around Sunday midnight, prompting the evacuation of over 1 lakh people from vulnerable areas of the state to safety.

Bengal's coastal areas have been put on high alert as the cyclone, accompanied by high-velocity winds, has already triggered rain in several parts of the state.

According to an India Meteorological Department (IMD) bulletin, the 'Remal' was centred 160 km south-southeast of Sagar Island at 6pm.

The cyclone, which has a maximum sustained wind speed of 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph, is likely to hit land between Sagar Islands in West Bengal and Khepupara near Mongla port in Bangladesh by Sunday midnight, officials said.

By 3 pm, the West Bengal government had evacuated around 1.10 lakh people from coastal and vulnerable areas and shifted them to cyclone shelters, schools, and colleges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday chaired a meeting to review response and preparedness for cyclonic storm 'Remal'.

State minister Akhil Giri said, "Our experience in tackling Cyclone Amphan and Cyclone Yaas will be put to good use."

West Bengal Governor Dr CV Ananda Bose said he is closely monitoring the situation and is in constant touch with state and central experts to ensure a coordinated response to counter it.

Bose emphasised the importance of safety for residents in the coastal regions of Bengal, urging them to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cyclones.

The cyclone has already caused light rain and winds in areas like Digha, Kakdwip, and Jaynagar, which are expected to intensify on Monday.

IMD's eastern regional head Somnath Dutta said from Sunday evening, districts in south Bengal would experience squally winds of 45-55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph, affecting Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, and Purba Medinipur.

"This will gradually increase to gale wind speed, reaching 70 to 80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph," he told reporters.

Dutta warned that surface wind speeds in coastal areas of West Bengal could reach 100-120 kmph, gusting to 135 kmph from Sunday evening to Monday morning.

However, he mentioned that the damage caused by 'Remal' would be less severe compared to the destruction wrought by Super Cyclone Amphan in 2020.

Amphan, which was categorised as a super cyclone, had made landfall on May 20 in 2020 over Sagar Island and caused widespread destruction in Kolkata, South and North 24 Parganas, Howrah and Nadia.

The IMD has warned of localised flooding and major damage to vulnerable structures, power and communication lines, kutcha roads, crops, and orchards in the South and North 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal.

Residents in affected areas are advised to remain indoors and avoid vulnerable structures.

Fourteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed across South Bengal districts, including Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas, Purba and Paschim Medinipur, Howrah, and Hooghly.

The state government has also readied SDRF teams and is working with teams from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC).

Relief materials, including dry food and tarpaulins, have been dispatched to coastal areas, and quick response teams comprising trained civil defence volunteers and equipped vehicles are already in place.

The impending landfall of Cyclone 'Remal' has led to significant disruptions in air, rail, and road transportation in Kolkata and other parts of South Bengal. Eastern and South Eastern Railways have cancelled some trains on Sunday and Monday.

Kolkata Airport authorities have suspended flight operations for 21 hours from Sunday noon, affecting 394 flights in both international and domestic sectors.

The Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata has also suspended cargo and container handling operations for 12 hours from Sunday evening in response to the cyclone forecast.

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has taken measures to ensure no loss of life or property at sea. Remote operating stations at Haldia and Paradip are alerting fishing vessels and merchant ships through VHF broadcasts.

Additionally, nine disaster relief teams are on standby at Haldia, Fraserganj in West Bengal, and Paradip and Gopalpur in Odisha to respond to emergencies.

The Indian Navy has readied two ships equipped with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and medical supplies for immediate deployment to ensure the safety and welfare of the affected populace. Additionally, Indian Naval aviation assets, including Sea King and Chetak helicopters as well as Dornier aircrafts, are on standby for rapid response, officials said.

Specialised diving teams have been stationed in Kolkata to provide prompt assistance. "Further, diving teams with necessary equipment are on standby in Visakhapatnam, prepared for quick deployment if needed. Two Flood Relief Teams (FRTs), along with HADR and medical supplies, are being positioned in Kolkata. In addition, two FRTs each from Visakhapatnam and Chilka are ready and on standby for deployment at short notice," officials said.

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