At Least 3 Dead as Cyclone Fani Hits Eastern India

At least three people have died since Cyclone Fani crashed into the eastern coast of India, bringing heavy rain and winds to the coastal state of Odisha Friday.

Officials say more than 160 people were wounded in the onset of the storm. More than one million heeded government warnings and moved into storm shelters before the storm came ashore.

The storm moved over the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal by Friday evening and officials say more than 100 million people are in the path of the cyclone.

It is forecast to bring dust storms to the desert state of Rajasthan and snowfall to northeastern Indian states in the foothills of the Himalayas.

At least 200 trains were cancelled across India.

The airport in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, was closed Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.

The national highway to Puri, a popular tourist town, was impassable because of fallen trees and electricity poles.

Bangladesh, which also lies on path of the storm, ordered the evacuation of 2.1 million people.

Cyclone tracker Tropical Storm Risk rated Fani as a category 4 storm, a notch below the worst level.

Communities away from the coast are bracing for heavy flooding. Rainfall of 20 to 25 centimeters (8-10 inches )was expected over a widespread area.

Fani intensified significantly over the past couple of days, prompting the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to refer to it as an “extremely severe cyclonic storm.”

Eastern India is no stranger to deadly storms.

In 1999, a super-cyclone hit Odisha, killing more than 10,000 people. Four years later, the toll was significantly lower when Cyclone Phailin hit the state. Because of improved forecasting and an evacuation system, more than 1.3 million people were moved out of harm’s way, resulting in a few dozen deaths, rather than thousands.

On Tuesday, Fani became the strongest storm in the north Indian Ocean this early in the season, passing Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 100,000 people in Myanmar in 2008.

The north Indian Ocean cyclone season doesn’t have a defined start and end like the Atlantic hurricane season. Instead, it has two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October to November.

Fani is the first cyclone of the 2019 season.

Source: Voice of America