BHUBANESHWAR: A powerful cyclone lashed coastal areas of eastern India on Friday with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph), but there were no early reports of casualties with a million
people evacuated before it made landfall.
Having spent days building up power in the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal, tropical Cyclone Fani finally struck the coast of Odisha state at around 8 am local time (0320 GMT), the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
The state had evacuated more than a million people from the most vulnerable communities along the low-lying coast during the past 24 hours, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Twitter.
More than 1 million people have been evacuated from the vulnerable districts in last 24hrs. Ganjam & Puri evacuated more than 3 lakh & 1.3 lakh people respectively to safe shelters. About 5000 kitchens started operating to serve people in the shelters. #OdishaPrepared4Fani— CMO Odisha (@CMO_Odisha) May 3, 2019
Close to 60 km (37 miles) inland, high winds uprooted trees and electricity poles in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, where authorities had ordered the airport to stay closed.
Schools and colleges in Odisha were also shut. Hundreds of disaster management personnel were deployed in the state, and doctors and other medical staff were told to defer any leave until May 15.
780,000 evacuated in India ahead of major cyclone
Neighbouring West Bengal also decided to close an airport at Kolkata, its state capital.
India's cyclone season can last from April to December, when severe storms batter coastal cities and cause widespread deaths and damage to crops and property in both India and neighbouring Bangladesh.
Technological advancements have helped meteorologists to predict weather patterns well in advance, and authorities have become far better at preparing for the ferocious storms and reducing casualties.
A super-cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours in 1999, killing 10,000 people. While in 2013, a mass evacuation of nearly a million people likely saved thousands of lives.
Cyclones typically quickly lose power as they move inland.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his officials to stay in touch with the states at risk from Cyclone Fani.
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