1m evacuated ahead of powerful storm in India

NEW DELHI • A Category 4 cyclone gathered speed yesterday and was set to hit India this morning as almost one million people were evacuated in the eastern state of Odisha.

Severe cyclonic storm Fani was churning up the Bay of Bengal yesterday evening about 320km south-south-west of the Hindu temple town of Puri, where special trains were put on to evacuate tourists and the beaches were empty. Cyclone Fani is forecast to be the worst storm since 2014.

The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have deployed ships and helicopters for relief operations, according to a government statement. Sea levels may rise about 1.5m above the astronomical tide, said Mr Madhavan Nair Rajeevan, secretary at India's Ministry of Earth Sciences. Wind speeds are likely to reach as high as 200kmh at the time of the landfall in Odisha, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of people along India's north-east coastline were evacuated by boat, bus and train ahead of the cyclone making landfall, with many villagers piling household possessions into trucks before fleeing their homes.

"We are on the job and have sufficient time to evacuate people from the coastal areas," said Mr Bishnupada Sethi, special relief commissioner with the Odisha government.

The administration has stocked up medicines and food supplies in preparation, said Mr N. C. Marwah, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority.

As many as 48 National Disaster Response teams are ready to be deployed, he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held a meeting yesterday to review the preparations, has asked top officials to take preventive measures as well as make preparations for relief and rescue operations, according to a government statement.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2019, with the headline '1m evacuated ahead of powerful storm in India'. Print Edition | Subscribe