New Delhi: Officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have announced that operations of Kolkata airport will be suspended from 6 pm on Saturday to 6 am on Sunday due to cyclone Bulbul. The airport is the busiest one in eastern India.
Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall, accompanied by winds reaching up to 120 kmph and tidal waves up to one to two metres are expected while the cyclone is expected to make a landfall at the West Bengal coast at around 8 pm to 10 pm on Saturday.
"Due to very severe cyclone 'Bulbul', operations at Kolkata airport are being suspend from 1800 hours on November 9 up to 0600 hours on November 10," an MHA official said.
The cyclone at 2.30 pm lay about 90 km south-southeast of Digha, 85 km south of Sagar Islands, and 185 km Southeast of Kolkata.
The IMD office in Kolkata said the wind speed in the state capital is likely to be around 50 kmph, gusting to a maximum of 70 kmph. The cyclone is likely to make landfall after 6 pm around the Sagar island of the Sunderbans delta, with a windspeed of around 120 kmph gusting to 135 kmph.
Asking people not to panic, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the state administration is closely monitoring the situation and taking all measures to tackle any contingency. "Special Control Rooms have been set up and NDRF-SDRF teams are deployed," she said in a series of tweets.
"Schools, colleges and anganwadi centres have been closed and more than 1,20,000 people have already been rescued from the vulnerable coastal areas," she added.
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's apex body to handle any emergency, earlier in the day reviewed the preparedness to deal with the cyclone 'Bulbul' over the Bay of Bengal. The meeting, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, was informed by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) that the cyclone has now intensified and is likely to cross the West Bengal coast by Saturday evening.
Chief Secretaries of West Bengal and Odisha informed that necessary preparations have been made by them and State Disaster Response Force and Fire Service teams have been positioned.
Fishing operations have been suspended and people in low lying areas are being evacuated to shelter homes. As many as 16 teams of the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force have been positioned in West Bengal and additional teams are being deployed at the request of the states.
IndiGo airline on Saturday said it has implemented proactive cancellations and made alternate arrangements for its passengers in order to deal with Bulbul. "The peak hour of the cyclone is expected from 10 PM Saturday until 4 AM Sunday. All the passengers of the affected domestic flights are being notified and alternate arrangements being offered,"the low-cost carrier said in a statement.
Officials of the Ministry of Defence intimated that requisite number of ships, aircrafts and specialised teams of the Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, the Army and the Air Force are on standby.
Authorities in Bangladesh on Friday ordered the evacuation of about 18 lakh people from the low-lying coastal villages and islands as it braced for the storm set to hit the country this evening.
Officials from Bangladesh's disaster management ministry said thousands of people have already been moved to safe shelters as the evacuation process was underway, particularly in 10 southwestern coastal districts that are likely to face the maximum brunt of Bulbul.