Millions in India in path of huge cyclone

Clouds loom ahead of cyclone Fani in Visakhapatnam, India, May 1, 2019Image copyright

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Storm clouds gather over the Indian city of Visakhapatnam

Thousands of people are being evacuated from villages along India’s northeast coastline ahead of a severe cyclone.

Cyclone Fani is heading towards the state of Orissa with wind speeds of up to 190 km/h (120 mph), and is expected to make landfall on Friday.

Officials have now shut down operations at two major ports on the east coast, and thousands of rescuers are helping people evacuate low-lying areas.

Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states are also on high alert.

Which areas will be affected?

The cyclone is currently moving up the Bay of Bengal, east of Andhra Pradesh.

HR Biswas, director of the meteorological centre in the state capital Bhubaneshwar, said that at least 11 districts in Orissa would be hit – and that they have “suggested people to stay indoors”.

India’s National Disaster Management Authority has also warned people along the rest of India’s east coast, including the coastal towns’ many fishermen, not to go out to sea because the conditions are “phenomenal”.

Once the cyclone has made landfall in north-eastern India, it is expected to move towards Chittagong in Bangladesh.

How has India prepared?

Indian officials say they have set up more than 850 shelters, which are thought to be able to hold almost one million people.

The navy, the coast guard and the National Disaster Response Force have all been prepared for deployment.

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Fishermen returning to shore in Konark after a yellow warning was issued for Orissa

Local media report that about 81 trains travelling to and from coastal cities have been cancelled.

India’s electoral commission has relaxed its rules about what the government can do during election periods so that the authorities can carry out relief work.

The country is in the middle of an election which started last month.

Under normal circumstances the incumbent government has certain powers suspended, so that it can’t announce new schemes or take new decisions during the voting period.

Although the election will continue until the end of May, Orissa has already voted.

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