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As Cyclone Yaas approaches India’s East Coast, Navy, Coast Guard are on standby




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Cyclone Yaas will likely intensify into a “very severe cyclonic storm” and cross the Odisha and the West Bengal on India’s east coast on Wednesday (May 26), the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned.

India is recovering from the strongest Arabian Sea storm in over two decades that left a trail of destruction on the western coast and claimed over a hundred lives in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

The memories of Cyclone Tauktae last week and the havoc wreaked by Amphan last year have prompted governments both at the Centre and states likely to be affected by Yaas to enhance their vigilance and preparedness. That the crossing of the cyclone, by current estimates, coincides with the spring tide (which could mean more storm surges) is worrying, experts say.

A low-pressure area formed over the east-central Bay of Bengal and the adjoining north Andaman Sea on Saturday. “The low-pressure area is very likely to concentrate into a depression over east-central Bay of Bengal by Sunday morning. It is very likely to move north-north-westwards, intensify into a Cyclonic Storm by Monday and further into a very severe cyclonic storm during the subsequent 24 hours,” IMD said.

While a low-pressure area is the first stage of the formation of a cyclone, not all low-pressure areas intensify into cyclonic storms. However, the possibility of Yaas’s further intensification into an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” (wind speed of 167-221kmph) cannot be ruled out, scientists said. Yaas is named by Oman and the Persian word means a fragrant plant like jasmine.

An “extremely severe” cyclone, Tauktae, the most powerful one to barrel through the region in over two decades, caused gusts of wind up to 210kmph and nine-metre-high waves as it raced past Mumbai and made landfall in Gujarat last Monday night. The havoc forced governments in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala to evacuate a quarter million people in low-lying areas with at least 60 people losing their lives in storm-related incidents. The storm also sank a barge off the Mumbai coast, resulting in the deaths of 61 people so far.

“As on today the models are indicating that the cyclone will move towards and cross the West Bengal coast. It is, however, a large system and will definitely impact north Odisha and Bangladesh coasts,” said Sunitha Devi, in charge of cyclones at IMD.

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, met on Saturday to review preparedness for Cyclone Yaas in the Bay of Bengal, with the top bureaucrat directing various agencies to ensure safety of Covid-19 patients, hospitals and oxygen generation plants.

“Reviewing the preparedness of the central and state agencies, Gauba stressed that all measures should be taken in a timely manner so that loss of lives and destruction of property is minimised,” a statement released after the meeting said.

In view of the possible intensification of the low-pressure area, the Indian Navy has kept its ships and aircraft on standby for possible rescue and relief operations in West Bengal and Odisha. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) also deployed its teams in 11 districts of West Bengal on Saturday.

Apart from putting at least 14 of the state’s 30 districts on high alert in the wake of IMD’s forecast, the Odisha government has urged the Navy and the Indian Coast Guard to be prepared for the emerging situation.

In West Bengal, district administrations, particularly in the coastal block and Sunderban islands, have already started strengthening the embankments that form the only barricade between the rivers and villages. Fishermen in West Bengal have been advised not to venture into the sea from Sunday evening till the storm passes, and those who are in deep sea have been told to return to the coast by this morning.

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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.



…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.


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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested



The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.



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