Cyclone Phailin now hours away from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh coasts; trains cancelled

Bhubaneswar:  Cyclonic storm Phailin, the strongest to hit India in more than a decade and classified as 'very severe' so far, is closing in towards coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh at wind speeds averaging 200-210 km per hour and is expected to hit the two states between 6 pm and 8 pm tonight. The storm, likely to affect around 1.2 crore people, has triggered mass exodus in at least seven districts of the two states.
Here are the latest developments:
  1. Experts say the wind speed is gusting at 210 to 220 km per hour and is expected to touch 240 km per hour when the cyclone makes its landfall between Gopalpur in Odisha and Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. The tides could rise up to 3.5 metres and sea water could enter 300-600 meters in land. (Full coverage) | (Live blog)
  2. 56 trains on the Howrah-Visakhapatnam route have been cancelled while more than a dozen have been diverted. The trains are likely to be cancelled tomorrow as well. (Read)
  3. The touchdown will trigger very heavy rainfall in coastal Odisha and northern coast of Andhra Pradesh, the weather department says. The road traffic is also likely to be hit due to the rains. (See pics)
  4. In one of the largest exercises ever, four lakh people have been evacuated from the coastal districts in Odisha, with almost 1.2 lakh evacuated in Ganjam district alone. In Andhra Pradesh, over a lakh people have been taken to safe shelters so far. (Watch: 'Won't leave, we have full faith in God')
  5. The first aircraft with more than 500 tonnes of relief material landed at the Bhubaneswar airport this morning. The airport has now been closed with the Indian Air Force aircraft moved up to be made available on call. Power lines have also been affected in the city. (How Odisha is bracing for 'very severe' cyclonic storm)
  6. The Centre has deployed Central Reserve Police Force jawans in three vulnerable districts of Odisha - Ganjam, Jagatsinghpur and Khordha. Puri in Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh are the other two districts likely to be most affected. 23 cyclone centres and more than 100 shelter homes have been set up in the five districts. 1600 National Disaster Response Force or NDRF personnel have been dispatched, with 600 of them manning 37 rescue boats. (Numbers that underscore the impact)
  7. Indian Air Force assets in Nashik, Ranchi, Bangalore, Nagpur and Barrackpore are on standby; more than 40 planes and choppers have been deployed. 30 teams of Indian Navy divers are on alert; its ships will be deployed after the cyclone makes landfall. Five Army columns have been sent to Bhubaneswar from Ranchi. (Have info on, or looking for missing people? Click here)
  8. Paradip and Gopalpur ports have been shut. Paradip, one of the 12 major ports in the country, serves the eastern and central parts of the country and its hinterland extends up to Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
  9. The Odisha government has said it was setting a "zero casualty target" and was seeking "100 percent" evacuation of people in areas likely to be hit by the storm. The state's Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patra told NDTV, "We are fighting against nature. We are better prepared this time, we learnt a lot from 1999." Nearly 15,000 people died in the 1999 super-cyclone.(Foreign media on Cyclone Phailin)
  10. Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have been warned about extensive damage to homes, communication and power systems and crops in the storm, presaged by heavy rain and strong winds. Parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are also likely to experience rainfall.