Bhubaneswar: When Cyclone Phailin strikes the coastal areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh this evening, nearly 1.2 crore people are likely to be affected.
Odisha, which faced the destruction and devastation of 1999's super-cyclone, says it is not ready to take any chances this time around. Government sources say chief minister Naveen Patnaik is overseeing the entire preparedness.
"We are fighting against nature. We are better prepared this time, we learnt a lot from 1999," Odisha's Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patra told NDTV. Nearly 15,000 people died in the super-cyclone that ravaged Odisha in 1999.
The administration has been called back from Dussehra holidays and is working round the clock to prepare for Phailin. But it is a race against time.
"We have identified 1079 safe buildings... We are facing some resistance to evacuation," said Krishan Kumar, District Collector, Ganjam.
Early this morning, a steady exodus began. Using trucks and buses, authorities evacuated 40,000 people from 40 villages to government-run shelters, schools and buildings. Authorities plan to take a total of two lakh people to safer areas before the cyclone hits the region.
In Chilika, people queued up with bags packed up, waiting for their turn to be taken to safety.
"We are being taken to high school... we are only taking clothes with us," said a woman.
Food, water and other necessary items would be provided in these storm shelters. Officials have been stockpiling emergency food supplies and the government has also directed opening of free kitchens.
For rescue and relief efforts, Defence Minister AK Antony has moved the armed forces to state capital Bhubaneswar.
Two Indian Air Force IL-76 aircraft have already airlifted 30 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, with equipment like ropes, rafts and tree cutting tools. The Indian Air Force, fully geared up, has also put its choppers on standby and is ready to swoop in with relief.