Around a million people are likely to be evacuated and taken to cyclone shelters in West Bengal before very severe cyclone Yaas hits the West Bengal-Odisha coast on Wednesday noon.
"Evacuation process has already started and we plan to evacuate around a million people before the cyclone hits on Wednesday noon," said a senior official of the state government.
On Monday, the administration started moving people living on some of the remote islands in the Sunderban delta and on islands, such as Ghoramara, located close to the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal.
"The sea and the river get very rough as a cyclone approaches and hence people living on Ghoramara Island had to be evacuated on Monday," said a senior official of the South 24 Parganas district administration.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the cyclone was located around 450 km south-east of the West Bengal coast.
"From a cyclone, Yaas has already intensified into a severe cyclone. It is likely to intensify further into a very severe cyclone and is expected to hit the land somewhere around Balasore in Odisha on Wednesday noon," said a senior official of the Indian Meteorological Department's regional office in Kolkata.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that around 20 districts, including those in north Bengal, would be affected. The worst affected would be the coastal districts of East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.
Winds with speed reaching up to 70-80 kmph and gusting up to 90 kmph are likely to hit Kolkata on Wednesday. Rain and strong winds have already started in the coastal areas and the sea has turned rough.
In East Midnapore which is located closest to Balasore, the wind speed may reach up to 155 - 165 kmph gusting up to 185 kmph.
In some areas, such as Gosaba Island in the Sunderban delta, block administration has evacuated pregnant women and shifted them to 'mother hubs' on Monday.
"As Covid-19 is taking a heavy toll we have arranged separate facilities for pregnant women, particularly those whose estimated date of delivery is very close. Also, this time safe homes and quarantine centres have been set up to isolate suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases," said a senior official of Gosaba in the Sunderbans.
What is a cause of concern for the administration is the cyclone coinciding with the spring tide phase during the full moon, sp the storm surge could be higher and more devastating this time.
In May 2020, when cyclone Amphan hit the state, low tide was prevailing. Hence, the storm surge was not so high even though the gale was strong. "The water level is already high because of the spring tide and once the cyclone hits, we are expecting waves at least 2-4 m high at East Midnapore district which shares its boundary with Odisha. In North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, the storm surge would be 1-2 m high," said an official of the meteorological department.