BHUBANESHWAR, India: Cyclone Fani, classified as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm” has hit India’s eastern coastline. There were no reports of casualties.
Heavy rain has been lashing the eastern state of Orissa, also called Odisha, which is directly in the path of the storm.
The tourist town of Puri and neighbouring areas are experiencing strong winds with a speed of 175 kilometres per hour (108mph), which, the experts said, may go up to 200 kilometres per hour.
The Indian officials claimed there were no casualties. However, flooding has been reported from several areas and there were reports of trees falling and roofs of buildings being destroyed.
Around 800,000 people have been already been evacuated from Orissa and moved to shelters while several neighbouring states have also been put on high alert.
Cyclone Fani is expected to hit 15 districts in Odisha, apart from Puri, which is home to the 858-year-old Jagannath temple.
Numerous flights and train services in and out of the state have been cancelled. Schools and government offices are shut while operations at three ports on India’s eastern coast have been stopped. Hundreds of disaster management personnel have been deployed in the state. Doctors and other medical staff were told to maintain “high alert” and defer any leave until May 15.
India’s meteorological department confirmed the landfall started at 0800 hours (0230 GMT). The entire process of eye entering into the land will be completed in the next 2 hours.
Major airports were closed in Odisha and West Bengal and the railway network virtually closed down before the arrival of “extremely severe” Cyclone Fani is the biggest storm to hit the region in more than two decades.
Forecasters have warned of the “total destruction” of houses, the uprooting of power and communication poles, floods and damage to crops in some areas.