About 160 injured as Cyclone Fani smashes into Indian coast, Bangladesh evacuates millions as storm approaches

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The strongest storm to hit India in five years is heading towards Bangladesh, where authorities have ordered 2.1 million people to evacuate.

Key points:

  • There have been no reports of deaths from India, where about 160 people were injured and a million were evacuated
  • The India Meteorological Department said the Cyclone Fani was weakening
  • The “extremely severe” cyclone has impacted weather across the Asian subcontinent

Cyclone Fani barrelled into eastern India on Friday, damaging houses in the tourist town of Puri and wounding 160 people after about a million people were moved into 4,000 storm shelters.

Trees were uprooted and power and phone lines snapped as the storm made landfall on the eastern state of Odisha after it spent days building up power in the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department said.

Bangladesh, which lies further up the forecast path of Cyclone Fani, ordered the evacuation of 2.1 million people before the storm arrives later on Saturday.

Indian Government spokesman Sitanshu Kar said there were no reports of deaths but 160 people were believed injured.

Bangladesh’s Junior Disaster Minister Enamur Rahman said 56,000 volunteers were racing to move millions out of the storm’s path.

Howling winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour uprooted trees, and driving rain impacted visibility, while streets were deserted in Odisha’s state capital, Bhubaneswar, and nearby Puri.

“Damage in Puri is extensive, power supply, telephone lines disrupted,” Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said, referring to the seaside Hindu temple town that is popular with pilgrims and was directly in the storm’s path.

Damaged structures and uprooted tress lie along a road that was hit by a powerful storm

‘It is a panic situation’

Cyclone tracker Tropical Storm Risk put Cyclone Fani as a powerful category four storm on a scale of one to five.

The India Meteorological Department said the storm was weakening.

On Friday, winds brought down electricity poles and authorities had ordered the airport to stay closed in Bhubaneswar, about 60 kilometres inland.

Schools and colleges in Odisha were also shut.

A view of a map with weather lines showing the path of the cyclone.

A major hospital in Bhubaneswar suffered extensive structural damage but all patients and staff were safe, authorities said.

“It was a massive cyclone, like many others our house is flooded,” Bhubaneswar resident Anuradha Mohanty said.

“Boundary walls of houses around us have collapsed, trees have been uprooted.

“It is a panic situation”.

People packed into shelters, spreading mats to wait out the storm.

More than 600 pregnant women were shifted into safe locations, with nearly 500 ambulances on standby.

Some 242 medical institutions had been provided with power back-up, government authorities said.

Heavy rains lashed the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and a few coastal districts of the country.

Seaports have been ordered shut, a government official said.

Damaged structures and uprooted tress can be seen in an area devastated during a powerful cyclone

Weather across Asia affected

The India Meteorological Department said the “extremely severe” cyclone has impacted weather across the Asian subcontinent.

Dust storms were forecast in the desert state of Rajasthan bordering Pakistan, heat waves in the coastal state of Maharashtra on the Arabian Sea, heavy rain in the north-eastern states bordering China and snowfall in the Himalayas.

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.

But recent technological advances have helped meteorologists predict weather patterns more accurately and prepare.

A super cyclone battered the coast of Odisha for 30 hours in 1999, killing 10,000 people.

In 2013, a mass evacuation of nearly a million people likely saved thousands of lives.

Cyclones typically quickly lose power as they move inland

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