More than a million evacuated as cyclone hits India's east coast

Street shops are seen collapsed due to gusty winds ahead of the landfall of cyclone Fani on the outskirts of Puri in the Indian state of Odisha

More than a million evacuated as cyclone hits India's east coast

The strongest cyclone to hit India in five years has killed at least 12 people in eastern Odisha state before swinging northeast into Bangladesh, where more than a million people have been moved to safety.

Tropical cyclone Fani, which made landfall early on Friday, lost some of its power and was downgraded to a "Depression" by the India Meteorological Department on Saturday as the storm hovered over Bangladesh. Boundary walls of houses around us have collapsed, trees have been...

"It's a total mess in islands of the Sunderbans as the cyclone has destroyed everything in its path, fuelling fears rivers could burst their banks and leave vast areas underwater", said Manturam Pakhira, Sunderbans affairs minister. "Weakening of the intensity of the system is seen as per quick assessment through Doppler radars".

More than one million people had already fled from coastal areas of Odisha state, packing into shelters. Hundreds of disaster management personnel were deployed in the state, and doctors and other medical staff have been told not to take leave until May 15. Ports were also ordered closed. "It is a panic situation", Anuradha Mohanty, who lives about 40 miles inland from the center of the storm, told Reuters.

At least a dozen people were killed in Bangladesh as the cyclone hovered over the country's southwestern coast, delivering battering rain storms. "Our relief work is ongoing", he told AFP. The storm damaged more than 500 houses.

NF Railway officials have also informed that some of the trains from different Northeastern states and in coming transportation to Northeast have been cancelled due to warning related to Fani. A special train ran Thursday to evacuate visitors.

Indian officials have mobilized the army, air force, and navy to deal with evacuating people. However, the full extent of the damage was yet to be known, officials said Saturday.

Odisha, home to several aluminum units, power plants, coal mines and an oil refinery, is battered by cyclonic storms every year.

These stalls at the road's edge stood no chance of resisting the winds brought by Cyclone Fani.

India's east coast is vulnerable to destructive storms. In 2013, a mass evacuation of almost a million people likely saved thousands of lives.

Odisha and West Bengal, which are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, are forecast to get heavy showers on Friday and Saturday, according to the weather office.

Cyclone Fani's impact was felt in the west in Mumbai and Rajasthan and as far north as Mount Everest. "Mountaineers were climbing to lower camps after conditions at higher elevations worsened", as NPR's Sushmita Pathak reports from Mumbai.

The monster weather system, which threatened to bring a risky storm surge that could flood low-lying areas, was packing winds of up to 180kmh as it ripped into the country's east coast.

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