Carrying their baggage, thousands of people are leaving the port town of Paradip to escape the wrath of the severe cyclonic storm 'Phailin' which is expected to make landfall in Odisha in less than 24 hours.
The people, most of them workers of different industries including Oil Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Paradip Port Trust, Paradip Phosphates Limited, IFFCO and Essar steel plant, have started vacating the town since Thursday.
"Over 30,000 people vacated the town since Thursday and it is still continuing," official sources said.
The port town of Paraip in Jagatsinghpur was the epicentre of 1999 Super Cyclone with Ersame block bearing the maximum brunt of the natural disaster.
With the horrendous experience of 1999 still haunting them, no one wants to take anything for granted, retired government officer Yudhistir Mohanty said.
Additional Superintendent of Police, Paradip, Madhabananda Sahu said people were not willing to listen despite their efforts to convince them that Paradip and its adjoining area would not be affected by the storm like 1999.
Meanwhile, at least seven ships which had been anchored in the dockyards were sent to the deep sea to ward of possible damage of ships after being hit into hard objects in the dock.
Besides, clearing, transporting, loading and unloading of goods in the port had come to a grinding halt since Thursday while production in PPL, IFFCO and Essar plant stopped.
All the floating marine crafts have been shifted to safer zone of the harbour area to ensure the safety of the sea-worthy vessels from the cyclonic strike.
A control room has been brought up at the signal station of the Port to keep round-the-clock watch and vigil. The marine department has been kept on alert to meet with exigencies of the situation, an official said.
The PPT authorities have cancelled leaves of all its employees. They have been directed to remain on alert and report on duty as and when asked for, said PPT chairman, Sudhansu Sekhara Mishra.
Similarly, construction work of the oil refinery had also been affected after the workers, most of them outsiders, left the place, official sources said.
The authorities were evacuating people living in vulnerable pockets including Sandhakuda, Atharabanki and Nehrubunglaw to safer places.
The Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick said the administration was initiating all measures to meet the situation and evacuation was continuing on war footing.
Sea side Ersame block, battered by the Super Cyclone, was on the priority list of the administration with the people, particularly Ambiki, Padmapur, Kankana, Sankha, Gadaharispur villages, being shifted to safer places, Mallick said adding adequate relief material including free kitchen made available to them.
Luxury purchase spree turn into panic buying
Meanwhile, a grand preparation for a six-day merrymaking turned into panic buying to store essentials for at least seven days in view of the imminent deluge that is going to hit Odisha coast in the form of severe cyclone called 'Phailin' in next 24 hours.
A few days ago, people of Cuttack were making purchases for dresses and other luxury items for the Durga Puja celebrations.
But the warning from weathermen that the cyclonic storm would be at the threshold of very severe cyclone, the memories of 1999 super cyclone returned to haunt them with their festive mood giving way to fright and downcast.
The Durga Puja, tipped to be the biggest annual extravaganza of the city, has been badly affected as people, instead of going pandal-hopping, have decided to remain indoors as incessant rains began to lash Cuttack in the evening with frequent power cuts.
Sensing as to what is in store for them for next four to five days, the entire city is now witnessing lull before the storm.
Known for its unique brotherhood, people of both Hindu and Muslim communities have joined together in offering prayers in temples and masjids to protect the people of the state from the fearsome storm.
The Puja organisers at various mandaps hoping that Goddess Durga, invoked at their mandaps two days ago, would come to their rescue in the hours of crisis.
"We are sure the Maa (Goddess Durga) would come to our rescue and the people of the State meet any eventuality by the grace of almighty", said the city peace committee secretary Bhikari Das.
Muslim devotee, after the mass prayers in a Masjid, said he has fervently appealed to Allah to protect the people of Cuttack city from the imminent cyclone.
Meanwhile, the massive police arrangements made in the city for the Durga puja have been instructed to help the people of the city during the storm and help the district administration in rescue and relief operations after the cyclone.
The puja committee members have also been instructed to ensure that the welcome arches and decorations they have made at their mandaps do not block the roads after they are ravaged in the cyclone.
Image: Police direct people to move away as waves from the Bay of Bengal approach the shore at Podampata village in Ganjam district in Odisha on Friday