India on alert for worst cyclone in decades

BHUBANESWAR: Nearly 800,000 people in eastern India have been evacuated ahead of a major cyclone packing winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour and torrential rains, officials said on Thursday.
The Indian weather service said Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Fani should make landfall on Friday around noon (0630 GMT) in Odisha state and barrel north-northeastwards towards Bangladesh on a pathway that is home to more than 100 million people.
As it progresses into West Bengal state it should weaken gradually into a severe cyclonic storm with winds of 90-100 kph and gusts of 115 kph before entering Bangladesh as a cyclonic storm on Saturday evening with winds of 60-70 kph.
In Odisha on Friday, along with “extremely heavy” rainfall in places, a storm surge of about 1.5 metres (five feet) is “very likely” to inundate some low-lying areas, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.
A state relief department official said that 780,000 people were moved to safer places overnight from at least 13 districts of Odisha, home to 46 million people, which will bear the brunt of the storm.
“We are expecting more than a million people to move out of the danger zone in next 12 hours,” Bishnupada Sethi, Odisha Special Relief Commissioner, said.
Some 3,000 shelters in schools and government buildings have been set up to accommodate more than a million people. More than 100,000 dry food packets are ready to be dropped if needed, reports said.
On Thursday, the storm, which reports said was the biggest to hit eastern India in nearly two decades, was brewing in the Bay of Bengal and moving steadily and ominously towards land.