An extremely powerful cyclone roared ashore Friday morning in eastern India, bringing pounding rain, giant waves and wind speeds of up to 130 miles per hour, as tens of millions of people in the coastal state of Odisha sought shelter from the storm.
In Odisha, the storm -- the most dangerous in recent years -- brought life to a complete halt. Power and communication lines snapped. The airport in the state capital of Bhubaneswar remained closed and over 100 trains were canceled as residents were advised to stay indoors. The neighboring states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were also receiving very heavy rainfall.
Images shared by police authorities showed uprooted trees blocking roads as they were being cleared in real time.
On Thursday, the state authorities evacuated over 1.1 million people in about 12 hours, according to Bishnupada Sethi, the special relief commissioner overseeing the exercise. "We moved people into multipurpose shelters which can withstand high-speed winds, floods and lighting," he said.
He said the prompt evacuation was helping to keep the death toll low. As of early evening local time, there were three confirmed deaths from across the state due to the storm. Over 160 people were being treated for minor injuries. The extent and magnitude of the damage to homes and infrastructure was not immediately clear.
"Our priority over the next 24 hours is to restore power and communication," Sethi said. The storm's strength ebbed slightly after it made landfall, though it remained highly dangerous.
Central government officials shared images of damage caused by the cyclone to the state's main hospital. In one video, a part of the roof is seen flying off.
In previous hurricanes, the damage and death toll has been much higher in the low-lying, densely populated areas of eastern India. In 1999, a devastating Category 5 storm killed over 10,000 people.
Authorities changed the way they prepared for such storms in the wake of that disaster. Cyclone Phailin in 2013 saw heavy damage as well, but thanks to better forecasts and planned evacuations, the death toll remained in the dozens.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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