Tropical cyclones are violent storms that originate over oceans (in the case of Fani, it is the Indian Ocean) in tropical areas (in the case of Fani, it is between the Equator and Tropic of Cancer) and move over the coastal areas bringing about large-scale destruction caused by violent winds, heavy rainfall and storm surges (abnormal rise of the sea water level during cyclone).
It takes moisture from the sea to strengthen the storm. The place where tropical cyclone crosses the coast is called landfall of the cyclone (in the case of Fani, it is Odisha). The cyclones above 20 degrees north latitude are more destructive. Near Odisha it was 20.2 degrees north.
Cyclone Fani (a category four storm named by Bangladesh which means hood of snakes) also pronounced as Foni, was originated near the equator and initially headed towards Tamil Nadu. But suddenly it started gaining moisture and became stronger, which provided it with huge momentum and shifted its propagation towards the north. It later arrived at the coasts of Odisha with its landfall near Puri. Expected to generate storms with wind speed as high as 200 km per hour, it had the potential to cause widespread damage in Odisha and neighbouring states.
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Photo Source: A global map of wind
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had made a prior list of names with the help of several countries for these kinds of storms to eradicate confusion. Because every now and then storms like this arise. And they pick one name at a time from this list. Fani is just a random name which is given by Bangladesh in this list.
Image source: Downtoearth
According to the India Meteorological Department, “It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards and weaken further into a severe cyclonic storm during the next nine hours. It is very likely to emerge into Gangetic West Bengal as a severe cyclonic storm with wind speed of 90-100 km per hour gusting to 115 km per hour by early morning on 4th May. It is very likely to move further north-northeastwards and emerge into Bangladesh on 4th May evening as a cyclonic storm with wind speed 60-70 km per hour gusting to 80 km per hour.”
Image source: IMD
As I have noted above, cyclones above 20.2 degrees north are disastrous. Fani, on the other hand, originated quite close to the equator, around latitude 2 degree, well below the Shri Lankan landmass. The cyclonic systems in the Bay of Bengal usually originate around latitude 10 degree, in line with Chennai or Thiruvananthapuram. The forecast landmass on the Odisha coast is at latitude of almost 20 degrees. It has traversed a long way on the sea, thus gaining strength that is unusual for cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal in this season.
The timing of Fani cyclone is very unique. It is very rare that a cyclone which starts in April will hit the coastal areas of India in May. Between 1965 and 2017, India was hit by 145 cyclonic storms that were classified as severe, very severe, extremely severe and super severe cyclonic storms. Of these, only seven (only 5%) were in April and 27 (18%) in May.
Many places in the Puri district have been submerged into the water; several trees have been uprooted, several flights have been cancelled. Kolkata airport was shut for some time. A total of 140 trains including 83 passenger trains have been cancelled so far. According to NDTV, People have been evacuated from Gajapati, Ganjam, Khurda, Puri, Naygarh, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak and Balasore Mayurbhanj, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar. Nearly 11 lakh people have been evacuated in the last 24 hrs. Ganjam and Puri evacuated more than 3 lakh and 1.3 lakh people respectively to safe shelters. About 5000 kitchens started operating to serve people in the shelters. 8 people have died and 3 people are seriously injured. This kind of dreadful storm was witnessed in the Bay of Bengal at this time of the year 2008 and resulted in a mass killing of more than 1.25 lakh people in Myanmar.
According to ANI, 65 NDRF rescue and relief teams were pre-positioned in various part of the vulnerable states. Odisha (44 teams), West Bengal (9 teams), Andra Pradesh (3 teams), 1 team in Nagaland and Meghalaya, 2 teams each in Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
To save his people from the disastrous cyclone Fani, chief minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik instructed all educational institute in the state to declare holidays till May 2 until further orders. Apart from that, he ordered the setting up of a multi-agency control room at the BMC office. They started evacuating people from different people, especially from low coastal areas. More than 1.8 million people had been evacuated and shited to safe shelters, where they were being provided with food and basic medical help. Government agencies, NGOs and volunteers were working 24×7 to make sure no one was left behind and is safe.
United Nations through her special representative Mami Mizutori also praised for the efforts to tackle the casualties from cyclone Fani. She tweeted, “India’s zero-casualty approach to manage extreme weather events is a major contribution to the implementation of the Sendai Framework (an agreement to reduce disaster risk) and the reduction of loss of life from such events.”