Live: Cyclone Phailin set to lash Odisha-Andhra coast; officials fear 'extreme damage', flooding

HT Correspondents and Agencies, Hindustan Times  Bhubaneswar, October 11, 2013
First Published: 09:41 IST(11/10/2013) | Last Updated: 16:44 IST(11/10/2013)

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India's east coast braced on Friday for a cyclone covering half the size of the country, with tens of thousands of residents in low-lying areas fleeing their homes after authorities forecast a risk to life and extensive damage once the storm hits land.
Satellite images showed Cyclone Phailin 600 km (360 miles) off the coast in the Bay of Bengal and likely to make landfall on Saturday evening. The images showed the storm covering an area roughly half the size of India.
Some forecasters likened its size and intensity to that of hurricane Katrina, which devastated the US Gulf coast and New Orleans in 2005.
The Indian Meteorological Department described Phailin as a "very severe cyclonic storm" with wind speeds of 210-220 km per hour (130-135 mph) and said it would hit between Kalingapatnam and the major port of Paradip in Odisha state.
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre predicted gusts of up to 305 kph.
Residents of low-lying villages on the coast of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh began evacuating on Friday morning as cyclonic storm Phailin is set to lash the coastal districts of the two states on Saturday.
The Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments have geared up to deal with the impact of the impending cyclone that brewed over east central Bay of Bengal and has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm.”
Days ahead of Dussehra, a widely celebrated festival in the region, government officials are getting ready for rescue and relief operations in the coastal districts.
The Odisha government had already cancelled the Durga Puja holidays of employees in all districts.
Around 600 cyclone shelters have been set up in Orissa and are being stocked up with dry and cooked food as well as medicines.
The Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force has been deployed while the armed forces are on standby.
"We plan to evacuate about 100,000 families in Ganjam district by tomorrow morning," Odisha state's Special Relief Commissioner, Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra, told Reuters.
The government broadcast cyclone warnings through loudspeakers and on radio and television as the first winds were felt on the coast and in the state capital, Bhubaneswar. People living in thatched houses in low-lying areas were told to move to cyclone shelters, high-rise buildings and other safer places.
Residents reported 3.5 m (12 feet) waves, but fishermen hoped the storm would pass over and were reluctant to leave their boats.