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More than 100 Million in Cyclone Fani’s Path as it Strikes India’s Eastern Coast

"We are maximizing efforts at all levels for evacuation," Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said

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Indian fishermen pull a boat to higher ground on a beach in Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, May 2, 2019, as Cyclone Fani approaches the Indian coastline. VOA

Cyclone Fani, a powerful storm, struck India’s eastern coast around 8 a.m. local time (0320 GMT).

More than 100 million people are in Fani’s path as it makes landfall in Odisha state with torrential rains and winds gusting up to 200 kilometers per hour.

Close to 60 km (37 miles) inland, high winds uprooted trees and electricity poles in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, where authorities had ordered the airport closed, Reuters reported. Schools and colleges in Odisha were also shut.

Indian authorities have evacuated more than 1.2 million people from the coastal, low-lying areas and plan to move thousands more before the cyclone made landfall, and there were no early reports of casualties.

“We are maximizing efforts at all levels for evacuation,” Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said.

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Path of Cyclone Fani. VOA

Fani has intensified significantly over the past couple of days, prompting the India Meteorological Department to refer to it as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm.”

Cyclone tracker Tropical Storm Risk rated Fani as a category 4 storm, a notch below the worst level. Red warnings, the highest level, have been issued for extremely heavy rainfall and dangerous sea conditions Friday in Odisha and Saturday in West Bengal.

Officials also are asking tourists to leave the coastal city of Puri, home of the 13th-century Konarak Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Jagganath Temple, one of the most holy in Hinduism.

Two major eastern ports, Paradip and Visakhapatnam, have been ordered to move ships out to sea to avoid damage. Flights have been canceled from midnight Thursday at the airport in Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneshwar, and for Kolkata Airport from 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation.

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A fisherman carries his tools as he leaves for a safer place after tying his boats along the shore ahead of Cyclone Fani in Peda Jalaripeta on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, India, May 1, 2019. VOA

Communities away from the coast also are on alert for heavy flooding. Rainfall of 20 to 25 centimeters is expected over a widespread area.

Eastern India is no stranger to deadly storms. In 1999, a supercyclone hit Odisha, killing more than 10,000 people. Four years later, the toll was significantly lower when Cyclone Phailin hit the state.

Because of improved forecasting and evacuation, more than 1.3 million people were moved out of harm’s way, resulting in a few dozen deaths, rather than thousands.

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On Tuesday, Fani became the strongest storm in the north Indian Ocean this early in the season, passing Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 100,000 people in Myanmar in 2008.

The north Indian Ocean cyclone season doesn’t have a defined start and end like the Atlantic hurricane season. Instead, it has two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October to November. Fani is the first cyclone of the 2019 season. (VOA)

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Cyclone Fani Hits Bangladesh after Leaving a Trail of Destruction in India

Authorities said they are investigating at least 12 reported deaths in India and at least four in Bangladesh, although a significant human disaster appears to have been averted

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Damaged signage lies on a street in Puri district after Cyclone Fani hit the coastal eastern state of Odisha, India, May 3, 2019. VOA

A weakened Cyclone Fani struck Bangladesh Saturday after leaving a trail of destruction Friday in India’s eastern Odisha state. Authorities said they are investigating at least 12 reported deaths in India and at least four in Bangladesh, although a significant human disaster appears to have been averted.

In a 24-hour period before the storm made landfall, an unprecedented 1.2 million people in India were evacuated, India’s National Disaster Response Force said, averting a greater loss of life. In neighboring Bangladesh, another million people were moved to safety.

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A fisherman carries his tools as he leaves for a safer place after tying his boats along the shore ahead of Cyclone Fani in Peda Jalaripeta on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, India, May 1, 2019. VOA

Fani had been downgraded to a depression as it swept inland over Bangladesh. “The fear of a major disaster is mostly over, as it has weakened,” said Bangladesh Meteorological Department Director Shamsuddin Ahmed.

Authorities in India were assessing the damage inflicted by Fani, which strengthened for days over the northern parts of the Bay of Bengal before tearing into Odisha. The popular seaside tourist town of Puri was extensively damaged Friday by wind gusts of up to 200 kilometers per hour, tearing off roofs, snapping power lines and uprooting trees.

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Indian fishermen pull a boat to higher ground on a beach in Puri in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, May 2, 2019, as Cyclone Fani approaches the Indian coastline. VOA

Eastern India is no stranger to deadly storms. In 1999, a super-cyclone hit Odisha, killing more than 10,000 people. Four years later, the toll was significantly lower when Cyclone Phailin hit the state. Because of improved forecasting and evacuation procedures, the death toll from Fani is expected to be even lower.

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On Tuesday, Fani became the strongest storm in the north Indian Ocean this early in the season, passing Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 100,000 people in Myanmar in 2008.

The north Indian Ocean cyclone season does not have fixed start and end dates like the Atlantic hurricane season. Instead, it has two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October and November. Fani is the first cyclone of the 2019 season. (VOA)