Fri, May 03, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Mass evacuations as India prepares for monster cyclone

AFP, BHUBANESWAR, India

Nearly 800,000 people in eastern India have been evacuated from the expected path of a major cyclone packing winds up to 200kph and torrential rains, officials said yesterday.

The Indian Meteorological Department said that Cyclone Fani, categorized as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm,” was expected to make landfall this afternoon in Odisha state and barrel northeastward on a pathway close to the homes of more than 100 million people.

A state relief department official said that 780,000 people were moved to safer places overnight from at least 13 districts in Odisha, home to about 46 million people, which is to bear the brunt of the weather system.

“We are expecting more than 1 million people to move out of the danger zone in next 12 hours,” Odisha Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said.

About 3,000 shelters in schools and government buildings have been set up to accommodate more than 1 million people, and more than 100,000 dry food packets are ready to be dropped if needed, reports said.

Yesterday the storm, which reports said was the biggest to hit eastern India in nearly two decades, was brewing in the Bay of Bengal about 250km offshore and moving slowly westward.

The cyclone was expected to pack sustained wind speeds of 180kph to 190kph, bringing gusts of up to 200kph, equivalent in strength to a Category 3 to 4 hurricane.

It was expected to make landfall near the Hindu holy town of Puri, a major tourist hotspot attracting millions of Indian and foreign visitors every year.

More than 100 trains have been canceled in the past 48 hours, Indian Railways said in a statement.

Three special trains were running from Puri to evacuate pilgrims and tourists.

Authorities have asked tourists to leave coastal areas and avoid unnecessary travel. Special buses have been deployed in Puri and other towns.

Dozens of officials were making announcements on hand-held megaphones across the coastal belt asking residents to leave their homes for safety.

The Indian Navy has also been put on alert.

“Our men are urging people to move to safer places and government has set up sufficient shelters to take in those evacuating their homes... We are all geared up for the challenge,” Sethi said.

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