India: Cyclone Fani: Odisha stares at ecological crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Cyclone Fani: Odisha stares at ecological crisis

Two of Odisha’s ecological hotspots – Lake Chilka and Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary — may not be the same any more, thanks to Cyclone Fani that roared through the state on May 3 with wind speeds exceeding 200 km an hour, officials said on Thursday.

INDIA Updated: May 10, 2019 08:30 IST

Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Puri
Cyclone Fani,Odisha fani,India news
A tribal family seen under a collapsed tree that was hit by cyclone Fani, at Birapratap Pur Village, Odisha, India, on Thursday, May 09, 2019.(Photo: Arabinda Mahapatra / Hindustan Times)

Two of Odisha’s ecological hotspots – Lake Chilka and Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary — may not be the same any more, thanks to Cyclone Fani that roared through the state on May 3 with wind speeds exceeding 200 km an hour, officials said on Thursday.

Chilka, Asia’s biggest brackish water lake that earlier had two mouths, now has four more, stirring fears that salinity could increase by inflow of sea water and adversely affect marine life, the officials said. Over 4.5 million trees were uprooted by the cyclone in Balakhand, making it look like a “wasteland”.

Cyclone Fani, which made landfall in Puri last Friday, has left a long trail of destruction along the coast, uprooting millions of trees, blowing away roofs and homes, and snapping power. Weather experts have termed Fani the most intense cyclone in the region in 20 years.

While it affected over 14 million people in Odisha’s densely populated coastal districts, its impact on ecology and wildlife has been equally devastating, though an estimate of the damage has yet to be made. Most part of the ~17,000 crore the state government has sought from the Centre will go into putting people’s lives back on track.

The Balukhand wildlife sanctuary on the Puri-Konark marine drive, which has over 4,000 spotted deer, a large number of wolves, monitor lizards and is visited by Olive Ridley turtles for nesting, has lost over 4.5 million trees. “Most of the trees are either uprooted or broken. It’s a Herculean task to clear the fallen trees and restore the sanctuary’s ecology,” said Harshabardhan Udgata, the divisional forest officer of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was home to around 9 million trees and only mangroves were able to resist the strong winds.

The loss of spotted deer was not much, Udgata said, but it would be difficult for them to tolerate the gruelling summers without the shade of trees. “It will take us at least four months to clear the fallen trees. Planting new ones would only be possible in the next season. We are distressed thinking about the impact of the cyclone on wildlife,” he said.

The cyclone also damaged lakhs of trees along the Bhubaneswar-Puri highway and on roads in Bramhagiri, Satapada, Krushnaprasad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Khurda and several other areas. On Thursday, the Odisha forest department released information on the ecological impact of the cyclone, including Lake Chilka, which has been designated a world heritage site.

“Chilka lagoon had only two active mouths — the point where it meets the sea — before Cyclone Fani. Four new mouths have opened due to wave energy with high tidal prism and saline ingress to the lake,” said Chilka Lake Authority chief executive officer Sushanta Nanda. “Its effect on biodiversty is being assessed.”

A Bhubaneswar-based environment expert, Biswajit Mohanty, said the new mouths were a cause of concern to the health of the lake, but one would have to wait a few months to see if they remain open or close by natural deposition.

“It’s important to monitor the lake’s salinity, which may see unexpected fluctuations due to the inflow of sea water through the new mouths. This may also lead to changes in fish migration. Fish and aquatic plants may also be adversely affected if the salinity level goes up,” he said.

“Chilka is home to about 150 species of migratory birds and endangered plants and animal species, apart from a source of livelihood for about 1.5 lakh fishermen in the region,” Mohanty added. Another environment expert, Aditya Panda, said increase in salinity could impact swamps in the lake and it could be measured only though detailed scientific assessment. “I am hopeful that Chilka will be able to revive itself,” he said.

After an initial assessment, Panda said the flamingo, pelican and painted stork population was safe in the Nalabana sanctuary on Chilka lake. But the real ecological impact would be assessed only in the next few weeks, he said. In the Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary, the forest department has estimated damage to nearly 5.5 million trees, which would affect around 400 spotted deer. “Around 20% of the trees are uprooted and cannot be revived, while the remaining were found to be snapped or broken,” said Jarsabardhan Udgatta, divisional forest officer of Puri wildlife division.

In Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan Zoological Park, animal enclosures have been destroyed and hundreds of trees uprooted. With the zoo shut indefinitely, monkeys have begun entering residential areas looking for food and water, zoo officials said.

The Odisha principal chief conservator of forests, Sandip Tripathy, said the damage to the green cover was so pervasive that it would take at least a decade to restore it. “We have to ensure re-plantation of the uprooted trees to revive the green cover,” he said. Mohanty suggested that the department should not plant trees such as casuarina and eucalyptus as they cannot withstand strong winds. “It would be wise to plant trees like neem, karanj, banyan and local berries, which are endemic to the area,” he said.

There is clear indication that because of climate change, the frequency and intensity of cyclones have increased in recent years, Panda said.

According to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, increase in surface temperatures over oceans, especially in the cyclone-prone Bay of Bengal, will increase the frequency and intensity of sea storms.

Odisha has witnessed three major cyclones since 2015 – Phailin, Titli and Fani. “Cyclone Fani got intensity as surface temperature over Bay of Bengal got warmer by one degree Celsius over the long term average, according to NASA satellite data,” said a Global Strategic Communication Council statement.India Meteorological Department director general K J Ramesh said there was a direct correlation between the intensity of cyclone Fani and climate change.

“Due to global warming, there is additional warming over all oceans; Bay of Bengal is no exception. Atmosphere is also very warm. The combination of the two makes cyclones last longer,” he said.

Panda said the increase in frequency of cyclones, especially in the Bay of Bengal, should goad policy-makers to come up with a new action plan to tackle them. “The storm blew away window panes of flats in high-rise buildings in Bhubaneswar and Puri and damaged household goods. This has not happened before. We need to do a rethink on how to save our cities from such cyclones,” he said.

First Published: May 10, 2019 06:58 IST

India: Cyclone Fani To Strike Odisha Today, Over 1 Million People Evacuated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Cyclone Fani to strike Odisha today, over 1 million people evacuated

As the cyclone progresses into West Bengal, it should weaken gradually into a severe cyclonic storm with winds of 90-100 kph and gusts of 115 kph before entering Bangladesh as a cyclonic storm on Saturday evening with winds of 60-70 kph.

INDIA Updated: May 03, 2019 08:03 IST

HT Correspondents and Agencies
HT Correspondents and Agencies
Bhubaneswar/Kolkata
Fani,cyclone Fani,Odisha
Puri: Villagers at the beach as dark clouds hover above the sea ahead of cyclone ‘Fani’, in Puri.(PTI)

An “extremely severe” cyclonic storm that is likely to make landfall south of Puri on Friday has put Odisha on high alert and prompted authorities in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to take precautionary measures.

On Thursday, the Odisha government conveyed to the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s top body for handling emergency situations, that 10,000 villages and 52 towns in nine districts will be affected due to Cyclone Fani , a home ministry statement said after a meeting of the NCMC, which was headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha.

Flight operations from Bhubaneswar remained suspended from Thursday midnight and from Kolkata from Friday morning, with the cyclone — packing winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour and torrential rains — approaching India’s eastern coast. Services will be resumed as soon the conditions improve. The railways has already suspended operations of trains in Odisha, the home ministry statement said.

As the cyclone progresses into West Bengal, it should weaken gradually into a severe cyclonic storm with winds of 90-100 kph and gusts of 115 kph before entering Bangladesh as a cyclonic storm on Saturday evening with winds of 60-70 kph.

A total of 1.1 million people in Odisha were moved to safer areas and the state has advised the public to remain indoor on Friday. Around 900 cyclone shelters have been made ready.

The storm is likely to impact Odisha’s coastal districts Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore. In West Bengal, it will affect the districts of East and West Medinipur, South- and North-24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram as well as Kolkata.

In Andhra Pradesh, the cyclone is likely to hit Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.

The power ministry has made arrangements to restore supply in affected areas with least downtime. The drinking water and sanitation ministry has made arrangements to move additional water supplies in the affected areas and is keeping in readiness packaged drinking water.

The ministry of food processing industries is keeping in readiness packaged ready-to-eat food. The health ministry has mobilised emergency medical teams, medicines and also coordinated with the Red Cross to provide assistance. It has kept ready 17 public health response teams and five quick response medical teams with emergency drugs.

The department of telecommunication has issued orders to all operators to allow free SMS for cyclone-related messages and inter-operability of mobile networks by other operators. The petroleum ministry has ensured availability of sufficient petroleum and oil in the affected areas.

The Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy have deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations while the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force units in the three states have also been put on standby.

The ministry of shipping has disengaged all ships at Paradip Port and has deployed emergency vessels

The railways on Thursday said around 102 trains have been cancelled in the last two days, while three special trains pressed into service to ferry stranded passengers from affected areas.Four trains have been diverted, it said.

The national transporter said it will grant full refund to passengers for the cancelled or diverted trains if tickets are produced for cancellation within three days from the scheduled date of journey. The railways had announced cancellation of 81 trains on Wednesday. So far, the railways has announced three tourist special trains to ferry passengers from affected areas.

The national transporter has also instructed that sufficient amount of cash be made available at major stations for granting refunds to passengers and meeting other exigencies. Frontline staff are to be advised to be extremely polite while dealing with passengers and leaving no scope for complaint, it added.

“Emergency control is to be operated round the clock with helpline numbers for guiding passengers. No staff are to be allowed to go on leave for the next three days,” the railways said.

In West Bengal capital Kolkata, authorities directed advertisers to take down all hoardings in the city. Hotel owners in tourist spots along the Bengal coastline such as Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur fear a loss of business. Digha, West Bengal’s most popular beach resort, is about 342km east of Puri, and close to the Odisha border.

“There are about 650 hotels in the area that attracts average footfalls of about 0.2 million people every day. Even if you consider them spending Rs 600 per head a day, the direct loss of business is at least Rs 12 crore a day,” said Bipradas Chakrabarti, secretary of the Digha Shankarpur Hoteliers Association.

First Published: May 03, 2019 02:26 IST

India: 100 Million People In Path Of Major Cyclone Fani

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

What is expected to be India’s strongest landfall tropical cyclone in nearly five years is barreling toward 100 million people on the east coast, prompting officials to begin emergency evacuations.

On Thursday, Tropical Cyclone Fani had winds of 215 kph (130 mph) with gusts of 260 kph (160 mph), making it equivalent in intensity to a Category 4 major hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
While it is not expected to make landfall in Odisha state until midday Friday, tropical cyclone force winds are already coming ashore in portions of Andhra Pradesh and will soon reach the Odisha coast as well.

Cyclone Fani is due to make landfall in Odisha state on Friday.

As Fani was classified as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” in India, the country’s Coast Guard and Navy deployed ships and helicopters for relief and rescue operations. Army and Air Force units have also been put on standby in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh states.
Some 900 cyclone shelters have been set up across Odisha to house evacuees and school is canceled across the state on Thursday and Friday. Teams are going door to door to warn people.
“They are being told what to take with them if they leave and the precautions they need to take if they stay,” said Ameya Patnaik, assistant commandant for the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Odisha.
Evacuations have also begun neighboring Andhra Pradesh, while those in West Begal have been told to be ready to leave, officials told CNN. Fishermen have been warned not to venture out to the sea due to the extreme conditions.
Fani, which is still about 200 km (125 miles) east of Visakhapatnam, a port city on India’s coast, strengthened rapidly on Monday and Tuesday, becoming the strongest storm to move through the Bay of Bengal this early in the year since Tropical Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
Nargis went on to strike Myanmar with winds over 200 kph (124 mph), bringing a devastating storm surge and flooding rainfall that resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in the country.

Impacts

Fishing boats at Konark beach prepare for cyclone Fani in Odisha.

Fani is expected to bring large storm surges and significant wind damage near the landfall location. Inland flooding will also be a major threat.
Portions of eastern India and Bangladesh can expect 150 to 300 mm (6 to 12 inches) of rain with locally higher amounts regardless of the intensity.
As Fani approaches India it will be moving nearly parallel to the coast. A slight move to the east or west would have a significant impact on the timing of landfall as well as the intensity. A more easterly track means that landfall would be farther north in India, perhaps even into Bangladesh.
If that happens, the storm would likely be a category or two weaker as it moves over cooler waters.

Cyclone season

Fani is the first tropical cyclone of the year in the northern Indian Ocean.

How are hurricanes named?

How are hurricanes named? 01:38
The season doesn’t have a defined start and end like the Atlantic hurricane season, but it does have two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October to November.
These two periods are prior to, and immediately following, India’s southwest monsoon season. The southwest monsoon season lasts from June through September and provides India with the vast majority of its annual rainfall.
Tropical cyclone activity during the monsoon season is extremely rare because the monsoon is characterized by high wind shear, which makes it difficult for tropical storms to form.

Ahead of Cyclone Fani, Red Alert issued for Coastal Tamil Nadu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Ahead of Cyclone Fani, Met dept issues red alert for coastal Tamil Nadu

Weather tracking website Skymetweather.com has observed that the system may strengthen as a tropical storm on the evening of April 27 or on the morning of April 28.

INDIA Updated: Apr 25, 2019 17:47 IST

M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
IMD,Tamil Nadu,alert
The Indian Meteorological Department has said if the low pressure transforms into a cyclone, it will move in a western and north-westerly direction where Tamil Nadu lies.(PTI PHOTO)

The Indian Meteorological Department on Thursday issued a red alert for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on April 30 and May 1 saying heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely in the southern state and the union territory. The IMD and other private weather forecasters have predicted that a low pressure formed in the Bay of Bengal is likely to develop into a cyclone which would be named ‘Fani’.

According to the IMD, if the low pressure transforms into a cyclone, it will move in a western and north-westerly direction where Tamil Nadu lies.

“A well low-pressure area lies over East Equatorial Indian Ocean and adjoining the southeast Bay of Bengal. It is very likely to intensify into a depression during the next 24 hours over East Equatorial Indian Ocean and adjoining central parts of south Bay of Bengal and into a Cyclonic Storm during the subsequent 24 hours over southwest Bay of Bengal and adjoining Equatorial Indian Ocean. It is very likely to move northwestwards along the east coast of Sri Lanka near north Tamil Nadu coast on April 30, 2019,” the IMD alert reads.

IMD’s Chennai regional director, S Balachandran said, “We are monitoring the system. Only on April 27 can we predict when and where the cyclone will make landfall.”

He also advised fishermen not to venture into the sea for the next week.

Though the IMD has not predicted the exact place where Cyclone Fani would make landfall, Nagapattinam-based private weather analyst Selva Kumar, who had correctly predicted that Cyclone Gaja will cross the shores between Nagapattinam and Vedaranyam coasts in November last, has claimed that Cyclone Fani will cross the shore between Manamelkudi (Pudukottai district) and Adhirampattinam (Thanjavur district) coastal areas.

The weather tracking website Skymetweather.com has observed that the system may strengthen as a tropical storm on the evening of April 27 or on the morning of April 28.

“It is to be named Cyclone Fani. By this time, it would have reached Southwest Bay of Bengal, close to Sri Lanka. Gradually, it will arrive in close proximity of the North Tamil Nadu coast in the Southwest Bay of Bengal. Weather models are showing the tendency of the system to move north-northwestwards and re-curve thereafter,” the skymetweather.com said in its blog.

The weather forecast website has also predicted that it is already a slow-moving system. “If the system re-curves, it is likely to further make it slower. This means that the system may become more intense and spend more time in the proximity of the Tamil Nadu coast, resulting in good rains over the state, including Chennai for a prolonged period,” the prediction reads.

If the cyclone makes landfall, it will be the second one in the state within six months. Cyclone Gaja hit the state in November. In the cyclonic devastation, 63 people died and thousands of houses were damaged in Nagapattinam, Thanjavur, Thiruvarur and Pudukkottai districts.

With the IMD sending out a red alert, district administrations of Pudukkottai, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Thiruvarur have advised fishermen not to venture into the sea for the next few days.

First Published: Apr 25, 2019 17:45 IST