Fani wreaks havoc in Odisha

3 people reported dead

The extremely severe cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ hit Odisha coast near Puri this morning, causing extensive damage to power infrastructure, thatched houses and trees. Two people have died as Cyclone Fani slammed Odisha Friday morning, uprooting trees and electricity poles, reports NDTV. The cyclone cut off power supply to parts of the state.

An old man in one of the shelters died because of a heart attack. Another person went out despite warnings and died because a tree fell on him, NDTV reported citing Odisha state special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi. The Odisha government moved over 11 lakh people, including 542 pregnant women, to safety in the last 24 hours.

Large areas in the temple town of Puri and other places were submerged as heavy rain battered the coast, according to officials. Strong winds were seen in parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal as well. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and disaster management agencies are on stand-by. "I assure the affected people that the nation and the centre are with them,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Rajasthan. He said over Rs 1,000 crore had been released in advance for the states affected by Cyclone Fani.

Earlier on Friday, the powerful cyclone lashed coastal areas of eastern India with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph).

Having spent days building up power in the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal, tropical Cyclone Fani finally struck the coast of Odisha state at around 8 am local time (0320 GMT), the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The state had evacuated more than a million people from the most vulnerable communities along the low-lying coast during the past 24 hours, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Twitter. 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 to stay closed. Schools and colleges in Odisha were also shut.

Hundreds of disaster management personnel were deployed in the state, and doctors and other medical staff were told to defer any leave until May 15.

Neighbouring West Bengal also decided to close an airport at Kolkata, its state capital. India's cyclone season can last from April to December, when severe storms batter coastal cities and cause widespread deaths and damage to crops and property in both India and neighbouring Bangladesh.

Technological advancements have helped meteorologists to predict weather patterns well in advance, and authorities have become far better at preparing for the ferocious storms and reducing casualties. A super-cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours in 1999, killing 10,000 people. 

While in 2013, a mass evacuation of nearly a million people likely saved thousands of lives. Cyclones typically quickly lose power as they move inland. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his officials to stay in touch with the states at risk from cyclone Fani.