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Naveen Patnaik asks for IAF, Navy help as cyclone Phailin approaches

Phailin, which was formed over North Andaman sea two days ago as a low pressure area, has developed into a evere cyclonic storm. (AP photo)

Cyclone Phailin, the strongest cyclone to form on the Indian seas this year, Thursday moved closer to Orissa coast, bringing back memories of the 1999 supercyclone as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Union Defence Minister A K Antony seeking assistance from the IAF and Navy for relief and rescue operations.

Phailin, which was formed over North Andaman sea two days ago as a low pressure area, Thursday developed into a severe cyclonic storm with a well-marked eye in its centre as it moved northwestwards. Met Department officials in Bhubaneswar said Phailin would continue to move northwestwards and make landfall close to Gopalpur on sea in Ganjam district, which will bear the cyclone’s brunt, by Saturday evening. By the time Phailin hits the coast, it would have a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 km/hour, with gusts reaching up to 200 km/hour. “In comparison to the 1999 supercyclone, Phailin is just a notch below. We expect it to wreak massive damage after hitting the coast,” an official said.

In 1999, almost 10,000 people died and 19 lakh houses were damaged in 14 districts.

Patnaik, who cancelled puja holidays for government employees in all 30 districts and called off his proposed Delhi trip, Thursday wrote to Antony seeking choppers for relief and rescue operations as Phailin is expected to be accompanied by heavy rainfall from Sunday morning. “Past experience indicates that despite the state government’s preparedness, impact of a very severe cyclonic storm requires support of the Defence forces,” Naveen wrote. “I would request you to kindly consider issuing standing instructions to the Defence forces, specially the Air Force and the Navy, to remain in readiness to extend support to the state administration.”

The cyclone would also affect interior Orissa and large parts of coastal Orissa, including Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Puri and Balasore.

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