Severe cyclonic storm 'Bulbul' made landfall Saturday midnight between Sagar Islands of West Bengal and Khepupara in Bangladesh, hurtling northeastwards into the neighbouring country over the Sunderban delta, with two deaths reported in its wake.
The system, which made landfall as a severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained speed of 110 to 120 kilometres per hour with gusts up to 135 kmph, is set to weaken gradually as it moves into Bangladesh through the Sunderban delta, Regional MeT director G K Das said in Kolkata.
According to US-based AccuWeather Inc., Bulbul strengthened from a deep depression into a tropical cyclone on Thursday morning, and by Friday afternoon had strengthened into a severe cyclone.
Bulbul was the equivalent of a Category 1 or 2 hurricane in the Atlantic, it said.
Gale wind with speed of 110 to 120 kmph with gusts up to 135 kmph prevailed along and off the coastal and adjoining districts of West and East Midnapore, South and North 24 Parganas as the eye of the storm made landfall around midnight.
Squally wind with speed of 50 to 60 kmph with gusts up to 70 kmph was likely to prevail over Kolkata during the night, the MeT office said.
One death each has been reported from West Bengal and Odisha due to heavy rain triggered by the storm.
Rain lashed coastal West Bengal throughout Saturday, uprooting trees and leading to the death of a man in Kolkata.
The man was killed at a club in upmarket Ballygunge Place area when a tree was uprooted and fell on him during the squally weather.
Continuous downpour since the early hours of Saturday led to waterlogging of some streets and lowlying areas of Kolkata.Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said during the day that she was monitoring the situation and the administration had taken all measures to tackle any contingency.
She appealed to citizens to maintain calm and not to panic.
In Odisha, one person died due to a reported rain-related wall collapse at Kendrapara district and the matter was being enquired, special relief commissioner, Odisha, P K Jena said.
Odisha chief secretary Asit Tripathy said the state government was keeping a close watch on the situation and necessary action was being taken to deal with it.
In Delhi, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country's apex body to handle any emergency, on Saturday reviewed the preparedness to deal with the very severe cyclone 'Bulbul' over the Bay of Bengal.
The NCMC meeting was headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.
"Due to very severe cyclone 'Bulbul', operations at Kolkata airport has been suspended from 6.00 pm on November 9 to 6.00 am of November 10," a home ministry official said in the national capital.
Indigo, in a statement said, "Due to cyclone Bulbul, all flight operations to and from Kolkata been suspended from today 6.00 pm to 6.00 am on Sunday".
"The Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard are on alert," an MHA official said.
Three Navy ships at Visakhapatnam are on standby with relief material embarked for immediate deployment to the most affected areas to undertake Humanitarian Aid Distress Relief (HADR) operation, a Defence official said.
Additionally, ten diving and medical teams were also kept ready by the Navy for augmenting rescue and relief efforts in Odisha and West Bengal, the official said.
Navy aircraft were kept ready at Naval Air station, INS Dega to undertake aerial survey of the most affected areas, casualty evacuation and airdrop of relief material as required by the state administration, the official added.
Naval Officers-in-Charge, West Bengal and Odisha are in constant liaison with respective state administrations for rendering assistance as required, he added.
A Ministry of Home official said in New Delhi that it is monitoring the situation and that the West Bengal administration has evacuated 59,000 people from coastal areas and other places which are likely to be affected.
The MHA official said that 17 NDRF teams were deployed in West Bengal, while six of their teams were active in Odisha for dealing with contingencies.
In Odisha, around 4,000 people were evacuated from vulnerable and low-lying areas in some coastal regions of the state and shifted to 47 cyclone shelters, officials said.
Personnel of the Indian Coast Guard were in readiness to tackle any eventuality in the wake of cyclonic storm 'Bulbul'.
Ships have been moved to safer locations at Paradip, Dhamra and Sagar Island coasts, Inspector General of Coast Guard, Rajan Bargotra, told PTI.
Fishermen were advised not to venture into the rough seas in Odisha and West Bengal coastal regions in view of the cyclonic storm, said Bargotra, who is the Commander Coast Guard Region (North East).
Deputy Inspector General S R Dash, who is Commander of Coast Guard, West Bengal, said three disaster management teams have been stationed at Haldia and two at Fraserganj in South 24 Parganas district for timely action.
"We are trying to achieve zero casaulty," Dash said.
Chief Minister Banerjee, who was monitoring the situation at state administrative headquarter Nabanna, told reporters on Saturday night that Central Disaster Management teams and state disaster management teams were working round the clock in affected areas.
She said Contai, Ramnagar and Khejuri were among the most affected areas in the storm.
The chief minister said that 318 relief camps have been set up in the cyclone-hit areas with 1,12,365 people lodged in the camps.Banerjee said in total 1.64.315 lakh people have been hit by the cyclone.She said the West Bengal government would provide financial help to the cyclone-affected people.
Up to 1.8 million were expected to be evacuated by Saturday evening ahead of Cyclone Bulbul, said Enamur Rahman, Bangladesh's junior disaster management minister.
Rahman said the government suspended weekend leave for government officials in 13 coastal districts on Saturday.
On Saturday, volunteers used loudspeakers to ask people to move to shelters in Chittagong and other regions, according to the Disaster Management Ministry.
In the Cox's Bazar coastal district, tourists were alerted to stay in their hotels, while a few hundred visitors were stuck on Saint Martins Island.
Authorities suspended all activities in the country's main seaports, including in Chittagong, which handles almost 80 per cent of Bangladesh's exports and imports.
All vessels and fishing boats were told to stop operating.
Local authorities ordered school buildings and mosques to be used as shelters in addition to dedicated cyclone shelters — raised concrete buildings that have been built over the past decades.
Bangladesh, a nation of 160 million people, has a history of violent cyclones.
But disaster preparedness programs in recent decades have upgraded the country's capacity to deal with natural disasters, resulting in fewer casualties.