India plans to evacuate 800,000 as cyclone nears east coast


India plans to evacuate 800,000 as cyclone nears east coast

India will use boats, buses and trains to evacuate 800,000 people along its east coast on Thursday ahead of an approaching cyclone that is forecast to make landfall within 24 hours, officials said.

Severe Cyclonic Storm Fani was centered in the west of the Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Office said. The south coast of Odisha state was also expected to get heavy to very heavy rainfall on Thursday, it said in a bulletin.

The state-run weather office also forecast wind speeds gusting up to 200 kph (125 mph) by Friday. Cyclone tracker Tropical Storm Risk rated Fani a mid-range category 3 storm.

About 800,000 people were expected to be evacuated from low-lying areas of 14 districts in Odisha to cyclone shelters, safer schools and college buildings, a government statement said.

“We are maximizing efforts at all levels for evacuation for the time being,” Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi told Reuters.

Tourists have also been advised to leave coastal towns in West Bengal and Odisha, state government officials said.

Sea conditions were also likely to be very rough off the coast of the southeastern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and federally administered Puducherry, the weather office said.

India’s cyclone season generally lasts from April to December, with severe storms often leading to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, widespread deaths and damage to crops and property in both India and Bangladesh.

A super-cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours, killing 10,000 people, two decades ago. A mass evacuation of nearly a million people in 2013 likely saved thousands of lives.

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