Bhubaneswar/Hyderabad, Oct 11 (PTI) :
A “very severe” cyclone barreled towards east coast tonight with 220 kmph wind and is likely to hit Odisha and Andhra Pradesh tomorrow evening, forcing evacuation of lakhs of people and evoking deadly memories of the 1999 super cyclone that pounded Odisha.
As Odisha and AP braced for ‘Cyclone Phailin’ whose likely intensity has triggered a debate, the Armed Forces were put on high alert with NDMA estimating that around 1.2 crore people are expected to be affected by the storm. Nearly 10,000 people were killed in the 1999 super cyclone.
Cyclone Phailin, which is being compared by some experts to Hurricane Katrina which devastated parts of the US in 2005 killing about 1,800 people, is expected to make landfall near Gopalpur in Ganjam district in Odisha around 6 PM after crossing an area between Paradip in the state and Kalingapatnam in AP.
Five districts were in the eye of the storm with IMD Chief Dr L S Rathore identifying Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts in Odisha and Srikakalum in AP as those likely to be the worst hit. He warned that the cyclone will be accompanied by a storm surge of up to three metres in the districts that will bear the brunt.
The cyclone is currently 400 km southeast of Gopalpur in Ganjam, the latest IMD bulletin said tonight. It is moving at a speed of 15 kmph.
“Cyclone Phailin is a very severe cyclone,” Rathore said, but felt the storm is unlikely to develop into a super cyclone.
Ironically, Phailin is Thai word for sapphire.
A US meteorologist warned that Phailin could be worse than Katrina. “Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting,” said Eric Holthaus, meteorologist for Quartz, a US-based online magazine which covers global economy-related issues.
“It has exploded from tropical storm strength to potentially the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane,” he was quoted as saying in the Quartz website.
Category 5 hurricane is the most powerful. “While strengthening, the storm has grown to nearly half the size of India itself,” he said.