Cyclonic storm 'Yaas' is likely to make landfall near Dhamra Port in Odisha's Bhadrak district early on Wednesday morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

Umashankar Das, a scientist at the Regional Meteorological Centre, Bhubaneswar said that the landfall will most likely be between Dhamra and Chandbali in the district.

IMD Director General Dr Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said that Cyclone Yaas is likely to intensify into a "Very Severe Cyclonic Storm (VSCS)" by Tuesday evening and Chandbali is likely to witness the maximum damage caused by it.

"Rain has already started and will continue. Wind speeds in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts will reach around 80 kmph by midnight," he said.

He said the impact will be severe for six hours before and after the landfall.

"Big trees and electric poles may get uprooted. Chandbali is likely to witness the maximum damage due to the cyclone," Mr Mohapatra said.

Cyclone Yaas, equivalent to a category 3 hurricane, will cause heavy rains in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha, with wind speeds as high as 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour, according to the India Meteorological Department. Sea levels may increase 4 meters above regular tides and inundate low-lying areas, it said.

The latest storm follows a severe cyclone that hit the west coast last week — the worst in over two decades in the western state of Gujarat — killing dozens after a barge sank in the sea. The eastern region was hit by a cyclone in May 2020 with similar wind speeds, while another one in 2019 prompted authorities to evacuate millions of people.

The timing of the storm poses several challenges for already stressed authorities in the country, which is battling a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The infections have strained India’s health system and overwhelmed crematoriums and hospitals. They have also spread to rural areas, where about 70% of the nation’s 1.3 billion people live.Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has rushed Odisha's Minister of State for Home, DS Mishra to Balasore to monitor the situation in the northern parts of the state.

Official sources told news agency Press Trust of India that the evacuation process is underway in full swing in the coastal districts and over 50,000 people have been taken to safe shelters till noon.

The process will be completed by afternoon, much before Cyclone Yaas nears the coast, they said.

The evacuation of people is being carried out keeping in view the IMD's warning of a tidal surge of around 2-4.5 metres during the landfall of Cyclone Yaas.

"Cyclone Yaas is likely to move north-northwestwards and intensify further into a VSCS during the next 12 hours," the IMD said in its latest bulletin issued at 9:10 am on Tuesday.

The system has been moving north-northwestwards at a speed of 10 kmph during the past six hours. It lays centred around 320 km south-southeast of Paradip (Odisha), 430 km south-southeast of Balasore (Odisha) and 420 km south- southeast of Digha (West Bengal) at 5:30 am, it said.

Wind speeds reaching 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph are prevailing over north Bay of Bengal and along and off Andhra Pradesh-Odisha-West Bengal-Bangladesh coasts, the weatherman said.

Wind speeds will increase to 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph over northwest Bay of Bengal and along and off north Odisha and adjoining West Bengal coasts including Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Bhadrak, Balasore districts of Odisha during landfall, it said.

In Odisha's Mayurbhanj district and West Bengal's Purba Medinipur and South 24 Parganas districts, wind speeds may increase to 100-120 kmph gusting to 145 kmph.

Wind speeds reaching 80-90 kmph gusting to 110 kmph will prevail over Odisha's Puri, Cuttack, Khurda and Jajpur districts and West Bengal's Jhargram, Paschim Medinipur and North 24 Parganas districts during the period.

The system is likely to cause heavy rain over large parts of West Bengal and Odisha on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cyclone Yaas is also expected to cause a storm surge of 2-4 metres along the coastline of Purba Medinipur and 1-2 metres in South 24 Parganas.

The weatherman advised fishermen against venturing out into the sea till further information.

Federal Home Minister Amit Shah asked the state governments to ensure adequate power backup for hospitals, laboratories, vaccine cold stores and other medical facilities, the ministry said in a statement.

Ports, refineries and plants were on alert. Indian Oil Corp., the biggest refiner, stopped unloading crude oil at Paradip in Odisha and asked ships to move 250 nautical miles away from the path of the cyclone, according to a spokesman.

The weather department advised fishermen to suspend operations in the area and return immediately to the coast. The storm could damage houses and roads, disrupt movement of trains and disrupt power and telecommunication services, it said in a statement.

Both Paradip Port Trust and Dhamra Port said all vessels at the anchorage will move to a safer area in the sea, while those alongside berths have been asked to keep their main engines ready to move to sea at short notice.

Oil explorers in the Bay of Bengal have been asked to take all precautions to maintain safe operations, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons said in a Twitter post. Oil and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said as a precautionary measure all major oil and steel industrial units along the east coast will operate with minimum manpower for the next two to three days.

Authorities are cautious this time after a fatal accident last week. The Indian Navy recovered 70 bodies after a barge and a tug boat, working for state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp., sank following cyclone Tauktae that hit the west coast on May 17. The navy rescued 188 people, but some are still missing.

Yaas will be the second storm to hit India in 10 days after Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 140 people across western states last week. Nearly 70 victims were on a barge that ripped free of its anchors in the storm and sank off Mumbai's coast.

The massive storms come as India is battling a devastating coronavirus surge, complicating efforts to deal with both.Last

May, nearly 100 people died in Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade. It flattened villages, destroyed farms and left millions without power in eastern India and Bangladesh.

A weather bulletin from the country's Meteorological Department in Dhaka said that ships should leave maritime ports of Chattogram, Mongla, Cox's Bazar and Payra.

Scientists say cyclones in India are becoming more frequent and changing climate patterns have caused them to become more intense.

Last May, nearly 100 people died in Cyclone Amphan, the most powerful storm to hit eastern India in more than a decade. It flattened villages, destroyed farms and left millions without power in eastern India and Bangladesh.