Cyclone Yaas: More than a million people evacuated as India braces for second ‘severe’ storm in a week

More than one million people in India were evacuated as Cyclone Yaas made landfall on its eastern coast on Wednesday morning.

The “severe” cyclone made landfall at about 8:30 am between Dhamra and south of Balasore in Odisha in eastern India, close to the Bahanaga block coast, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement. The landfall is supposed to take three to four hours to complete.

Odisha and West Bengal coasts were sent a red-coded warning alert by the IMD before the cyclone hit. Yaas is the second cyclone in less than 10 days to slam India. Before this, Cyclone Tauktae killed more than 90 people.

The wind speed of Cyclone Yaas is currently estimated at 130-140 kmph, gusting to 155 kmph, according to the Doppler Radar data. The IMD had earlier predicted the wind speed during the landfall would be around 155 to 165 kmph, gusting to 185 kmph.

As many as 1200 rescue shelters have come up as more than a million people living near the eastern coastline have been evacuated to these shelters by local authorities. However, there are fears that social distancing norms due to Covid-19 might be difficult to maintain. Several health teams have also been deployed at these rescue shelters.

Flight operations at Kolkata airport have been suspended from 8:30 am to 7:45 pm. At the airport at Bhubaneshwar, capital of Odisha, operations were suspended from 11 pm on Monday. Flights will resume from 5 am on Thursday.

Villagers rest at a shelter as Cyclone Yaas barrels towards India’s eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal in Digha some 190 Km from Kolkata on May 25, 2021. (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR / AFP) (Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Other neighbouring states – Assam and Meghalaya — have been warned of heavy rainfall on account of Cyclone Yaas.

As sea levels are expected to rise, several low-lying areas on the eastern coast will be inundated rendering millions living in coastal areas vulnerable, local authorities have said.

Several rescue teams including the Eastern Command of the Indian Army have deployed 17 cyclone relief teams in West Bengal.

Eastern Railway’s general manager Manoj Joshi told the media that all trains have been cancelled in view of the cyclone and “a dedicated control room has been established.”

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel walk along a village urging the villagers to evacuate and shift to a safer place before the landfall of cyclone Yaas in Digha about 190 kms west of Kolkata on May 25, 2021 (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP)

(AFP via Getty Images)

On account of Cyclone Yaas, a yellow alert has been issued in at least nine districts of Kerala that has been witnessing heavy rainfall. A yellow alert cautions preparedness against severe weather condition.

Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, told the media on Wednesday that damage has been reported in the embankment areas at several places in Purba Medinipur and South 24 Parganas district of the state.

The other neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu are also likely to be affected. And at least 50 rescue teams have been deployed there as well.

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