India has evacuated more than 1 million people living along its eastern coast ahead of Cyclone Fani expected to hit land on Friday afternoon, government officials said.
“Extensive” damage has been reported in the city of Puri, according to Reuters. Officials had been concerned about the welfare of the city’s 858-year-old Jagannath temple during Fani’s onslaught, according to BBC News.
Cyclone Fani crossed the Odisha Coast, close to Puri, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time Friday, thus making it an official landfall, carrying winds of 170 to 180 kilometers per hour, the India Meteorological Department said.
Update: A state official said two people had been killed.
Flooding has also been reported in several areas, and forecasters say a storm surge of 1.5m (5ft) could threaten low-lying homes.
Numerous flights and train services in and out of the state have been cancelled, while schools and government offices are shut. Operations at three ports on India’s eastern coast have also been shut down.
Naval warships and helicopters are on standby with medical teams and relief materials. The country’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has also deployed several teams there.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority has warned people along the 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.
Naveen Patnik, chief minister of the Odisha state government on Twitter, said the state has evacuated more than 1 million people in the past 24 hours.
The hurricane season could continue in India from April to December, with strong storms sweeping coastal cities, causing widespread deaths and damaging crops and property in India and Bangladesh.
A massive cyclone swept the coast of Odisha for 30 hours in 1999, killing 10,000 people. A massive evacuation of nearly a million people saved thousands of lives in 2013
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked his officials to stay in contact with the countries threatened by Cyclone Fani.