400,000 Evacuated as Super Cyclone Packing 314kph (195mph) Winds Heads for India’s East Coast
&lt;img style=”margin: 10px;” alt=”Cyclone Phailin” src=”https://d3ojdig7p1k9j.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Cyclone-Phailin-300×224.jpg” width=”240″ height=”179″ />From Reuters/ABC – October 12, 2013
Cyclone Phailin at a Glance
- The “super cyclone” is classified as Category 5
- Satellite images show it to be half the size of India
- Storm heading towards Orissa and Andhra Pradesh
- US navy says winds at sea gusting at 314kph
- Nearly 400,000 people have already been evacuated
- A similar storm in India killed 10,000 people 14 years ago
- Some forecasters have likened the storm to Hurricane Katrina
Nearly 400,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in India as one of the largest cyclones the country has ever seen bears down on the east coast.
Heavy rain, strong winds and large waves are lashing the coast as Cyclone Phailin sweeps through the Bay of Bengal towards the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Satellite images show the storm to be about half the size of India, and meteorologists are forecasting winds of up to 220 kilometres per hour and a 3.4-metre surge in sea levels.
The US navy’s weather service reported winds at sea were gusting at 314kph.
London-based storm tracking service Tropical Storm Risk described Cyclone Phailin as a Category 5 storm – the strongest rating on the 1-5 scale.
Weather officials say they the cyclone could have a potentially devastating impact on an area already in the midst of the monsoon season.
Authorities in the affected states have forecasted a risk to life and extensive damage to property when the cyclone makes landfall this evening.
They have been stocking shelters with rations and cancelling government employees’ holidays.
The cyclone is set to strike the same coastal area dotted with flimsy huts and shanties that was hit by a powerful storm in 1999 that killed 10,000 people.
Bear in mind that many of the structures along that coastline are made from mud. It’s expected that these places will simply disintegrate when they’re confronted with winds and rains and seas of this magnitude.
The authorities have had a few days’ warning. It looks as though they’ve put every effort into making sure that they’re as prepared as they could be.
We’re being told the Indian air force, army and navy are on full alert and disaster supplies have been flowing into the area for the past couple of days, so Indian authorities seem well prepared.
A few people on the coastline have refused to move. There are a number of people there still. We don’t know how many.
But at this point there hasn’t been widespread panic because the forecasters have been right on top of the situation, as has the Indian government too.
South Asia Correspondent Michael Edwards
Emergency officials, armed forces on alert
Disaster response units and fire personnel are on standby, control rooms are being set up and satellite phones have been sent to district heads, to ensure lines of communication remain open.
Helicopters and boats are being positioned in strategic spots and mobile service providers have been asked to make sure damage to communications towers is repaired immediately.
Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to the defence minister on Thursday (local time), asking for the armed forces to prepare to help with disaster relief.
“The cyclone is expected to impact life and properties,” he said in the letter.
“The districts likely to be affected by the impending cyclone have been asked to ensure all preparedness including evacuation of people in vulnerable areas to the cyclone shelters for their safety.”
In Andhra Pradesh, government workers, who have been on a strike for almost a week over a political decision to divide the state, came back to work in case of an emergency.
India’s cyclone season runs from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and wide damage to crops and property.
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