Indian Coast Guard and Navy Brace for Arrival of Cyclone Fani

Cyclone Fani in the Bay of Bengal, April 30 (NOAA)

By The Maritime Executive 04-30-2019 03:18:47

India's Coast Guard and Navy are bracing for the arrival of Cyclone Fani, an "extremely severe cyclonic" storm. Fani is expected to intensify with wind speeds of up to 115 knots, making it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. 

Fani is expected to arrive in Odisha, a province on India's Bay of Bengal coastline, as early as this Friday morning. Upon landfall, Fani may generate a storm surge of up to five feet, which would be enough to inundate several districts along Odisha's coast. It will likely move inland through Odisha and into West Bengal, the coastal province that is home to Kolkata, before heading over the border into Bangladesh. Areas near its path could receive between six and 12 inches of rainfall, raising the prospect of dangerous flooding. 

The storm's track runs nearly parallel with the Odisha coastline, and even small deviations in its heading could result in large changes in its time and location of landfall, according to forecasters. This also means that its intensity at the time of landfall could vary from currently-predicted levels.

India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are vulnerable to extreme cyclone events in the Bay of Bengal, and have all experienced severe storms with high casualty counts. In 2014, Cyclone Phailin made landfall in Odisha as a Category 4 cyclone, killing 45 people and leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. 

To prepare for the search and rescue operation following the storm, the Indian Navy is loading additional ships with relief supplies, dive teams and medical teams, and it is prepping its aerial SAR assets for on-shore response efforts. The Indian Coast Guard says that it continues to relay weather advisories to fishermen at sea, and it is using its air and surface assets to find them and direct them to return to shore. The India Meteorological Department has suggested a total suspension of fishing in the affected area. 

The Indian government came in for criticism about its heavy weather warning system in 2017 after hundreds of fishermen went missing in Cyclone Ockhi, a Category 3 tropical cyclone. Some of the survivors accused the government of making inadequate efforts to warn the fishing community about the storm's approach.