Cyclone hits Sri Lanka as southern India hunkers down

Fishermen securing their boats on land as they prepare for the arrival of Cyclone Burevi in Colombo on Dec 2, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

COLOMBO (AFP) - Cyclone Burevi hit Sri Lanka overnight, rattling the island nation but leaving it relatively unscathed on its way to southern India, officials said on Thursday (Dec 3).

Burevi, the second cyclone in the southern Bay of Bengal in a week, slammed into north-eastern Sri Lanka just before midnight (2.30am on Thursday Singapore time).

Packing winds of up to 100kmh, it soaked parts of the country but caused no casualties and less devastation than feared.

"There was rain and strong winds, but the cyclone did not cause any major damage in our area," Mr Mangalanath Liyanarachchi, a local reporter in Trincomalee, 260km from Colombo, said by telephone.

Thousands of people living along the coast had been asked to seek temporary shelter inland, but they have now moved back to their homes, Mr Liyanarachchi said.

Sri Lanka's Disaster Management Centre (DMC) had issued a red alert and asked fishermen not to venture out to sea.

Sri Lanka also ordered the closure of schools along the path of the cyclone for three days.

However, DMC officials said there were no reports of casualties and the damage was minimal, as the cyclone weakened on its way through sparsely populated areas.

The weather system is expected to make landfall in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu overnight on Thursday to Friday and move westwards into Kerala, Indian forecasters said.

India's National Disaster Response Force said on Wednesday that they had deployed around two dozen relief and rescue teams for the two states, for any emergency response after the cyclone.

Kerala's chief minister Pinari Vijayan said around 2,500 relief camps had been identified to relocate people from coastal and low-lying areas.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the central government was ready to provide "all possible support".

"Praying for the safety and well-being of those staying in affected areas," Mr Modi said.

Last week, a more powerful cyclone skirted northern Sri Lanka but hit Tamil Nadu with full force, uprooting trees and delivering 30cm of rain in some areas.

But more accurate forecasting and the timely evacuation of several hundred thousand people were credited with keeping the number of people reported killed to three, a fraction of the death tolls in previous years.

Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh depend on the monsoon for power generation as well as irrigation, but excessive downpours and storms cause casualties and destroy property almost every year.

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