Thousands of people are being evacuated from villages along India’s eastern coastline ahead of a severe cyclone.Cyclone Fani is heading towards the state of Orissa with wind speeds in excess of 200 km/h (127 mph), and is expected to make landfall on Friday.Officials have shut down operations at two major ports on the east coast, and thousands of officials are helping to evacuate people in low-lying areas.
800,000 people are in the process of being evacuated. Nearly 100,000 of them will be evacuated from the city of Puri where Fani is predicted to make landfall on Friday morning.”We are maximising efforts at all levels for evacuation,” Bishnupada Sethi, Orissa’s Special Relief Commissioner, told .Puri is also home to the 858-year-old Jagannath temple and officials fear it could be damaged by the cyclone.
Meanwhile, all schools and universities in the state have shut.The Indian Navy said it had sent seven warships to the area, and six planes and seven helicopters were on standby for relief operations.Forecasters have warned that torrential rain could trigger a storm surge of about 1.5m (5ft) in some low-lying areas of Orissa.
Cyclone Fani will be the fourth storm to hit the country’s east coast in the last three decades.
In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi killed more than 200 people and displaced hundreds. In October of last year, officials in Orissa evacuated hundreds of thousands of people when another cyclone struck.The cyclone is currently moving up the Bay of Bengal, east of Andhra Pradesh.
HR Biswas, director of the meteorological centre in Orissa’s state capital, Bhubaneshwar, said at least 11 districts would be hit – and that they have “suggested people stay indoors”.India’s National Disaster Management Authority has also warned people along the rest of India’s east coast, especially fishermen, not to go out to sea because the conditions are “phenomenal”.The agency said the “total destruction of thatched houses” was possible, as well as “extensive damage” to other structures.
Once the cyclone has made landfall in eastern India, it is expected to move towards Chittagong in Bangladesh in a weaker form on Saturday.
India’s electoral commission has relaxed its rules about what the government can do during election periods so that the authorities can carry out relief work.The country is in the middle of a multi-phased election which started last month.Under normal circumstances the incumbent government has certain powers suspended, so that it can’t announce new schemes or take new decisions during the voting period.
Although the election will continue until the end of May, Orissa has already voted.