Cyclone 'Yaas', packing winds of up to 130-145 kmph, battered India's eastern coasts on Wednesday, dumping heavy rain, damaging houses and farmlands, and leaving at least four persons dead - three in Odisha and one in Bengal - officials said. Thick sheets of rain blurred the vast coastline, as the cyclone made landfall around 9 am near Dhamra port in Odisha, with surging waters swamping the mud-and-thatch houses in the low-lying areas, where a massive evacuation drive has been undertaken to move more than 20,00,000 people to safety.
The storm, which had weakened during the afternoon, had left the coastal states on edge, with the Bengal government claiming that at least 10 million people have been affected by the calamity thus far, as it hollered on its destructive path towards Jharkhand. 'Yaas' is the second cyclonic storm to hit India within a week after 'Tauktae' tore into its western coast, causing death and destruction.
Seawater inundated several villages in Bahanaga and Remuna blocks in the Balasore district, and Dhamra and Basudevpur in the Bhadrak district, Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said. The administration, with the help of the locals, is taking measures to drain out the saline water from the villages, Jena explained. Heavy rainfall in the Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district sparked fears of a flash flood in the Budhabalang river. By afternoon, the water level in the river stood at 21 metre against the danger level of 27 metre, the special relief commissioner said.
Local sources said two persons were killed - one each in Keonjhar and Balasore - after trees fell on them, but there was no official confirmation yet. Another elderly woman in Mayurbhanj reportedly died after her house collapsed. Restoration work for power lines have started in several places of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara and Jajpur districts after cables snapped, Jena said, adding that the storm will likely move to Jharkhand.
Odisha has shifted 580,000 people to safer places, and West Bengal15,00,000, ahead of the cyclone, amid concerns over spread of Covid-19 infection at the temporary shelters, given the fact that the country is battling the raging second wave of the pandemic. The Bengal chief minister has claimed that her state is the "worst-affected", pointing out that 300,000 houses and 134 embankments have been damaged due to the cyclone.
She also said that one person, who was initially rescued, died "accidentally" later. Mamata added that relief materials worth £1 million have been sent to the affected areas. The scenic town of Digha in East Midnapore, which shares border with Balasore district of Odisha, lay swamped, with the Army being called in for rescue operations, a defence official said.