`Yaas’ weakens after hitting North Odisha, Bengal
Cyclone Yaas crossed the north Odisha coast about 20 km south of Balasore between 10.30 and 11 am, with 130-140 km per hour winds and 150 km per hour gusts. At 11.30 am it was over north coastal Odisha, about 15 km southwest of Balasore.
Cyclone Yaas has weakened into a 'severe cyclonic storm' with 100-110 km per hour winds and 120 km per hour gusts. At 1.30 pm it was 15 km from Balasore and centred over north coastal Odisha. It is expected to weaken further - into a 'cyclonic storm' - over the next six hours, moving north-northwest towards Jharkhand as it does.
Yaas is likely to move over Odisha's Mayurbhanj district later today, with 100-110 km per hour winds, before losing strength and leaving for Jharkhand by midnight. The state has been placed on high alert and officials have begun evacuating people from low-lying areas in vulnerable districts like East and West Singhbhum.
At least two people died in Bengal's Digha - the coastal town was "swamped" by waves the height of a double-decker bus, news agency AFP reported. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said one person died in a building collapse and another was dragged out to sea. Two others were electrocuted Tuesday night, news agency ANI reported.
In Bengal around 20,000 mud houses and temporary shelters were either destroyed or damaged, Ms Banerjee was quoted by news agency Reuters. Bengal minister Bankim Hazra said: "I have not seen anything like this before" after sea waters inundated low-lying areas in Digha, where a police station was flooded. An estimated one crore people have been affected in Bengal, according to the state government.
There has been no major damage reported from Odisha so far, although trees have been uprooted in Bhadrak district and some areas have been flooded. The government has warned people that heavy rains may continue and has urged them to stay indoors.
Around 5.8 lakh people have been shifted from low-lying regions in Odisha and around 11.5 lakh from places along the Bengal coast. Chief ministers of both states held review meetings Tuesday, with particular focus on arrangements - including supply of oxygen and electricity - for Covid hospitals in vulnerable regions. Ms Banerjee is to spend tonight at her office - 'Nabanna' - to monitor Yaas' impact and subsequent relief efforts.
Yaas, like Tauktae, strikes as India battles a devastating second wave of Covid infections. Officials fear the storm will complicate efforts to halt the surge in cases. Masks are being distributed at emergency shelters but maintaining social distancing will be a challenge. Vaccination drives in affected areas have also been suspended.
Kolkata's Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport is closed till 7.45 pm. Bhubaneswar's Biju Patnaik International Airport is closed till 5 am Thursday. Veer Surendra Sai Airport in Odisha's Jharsuguda is shut till 7.45 pm Thursday. Durgapur and Rourkela airports will stay closed today.
Indian Railways has announced the cancellation of at least 38 long-distance passenger trains headed to both Kolkata and southern states. These services will remain cancelled till Saturday, a Northeast Frontier Railways statement quoted by news agency ANI said. Passengers scheduled to travel on these trains will have ticket charges refunded.
Naval base INS Chilka is co-ordinating relief efforts with operations supported by Eastern Naval Command Headquarters in Visakhapatnam. The Army has deployed 17 columns in Bengal. Three columns and an engineering force have been sent to Odisha. The Air Force's Eastern Command, which is based in Meghalaya, has also moved to help.
A record 115 National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed. Visuals tweeted by agency chief SN Pradhan this morning showed the NDRF already hard at work clearing roads of fallen trees and evacuating people from coastal villages and towns.