October 11, 2013 3:51 am
Updated: October 11, 2013 2:36 pm

Cyclone Phailin likely to hit east coast of India as Category 5 storm

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BHUBANESHWAR, India – Tens of thousands of villagers evacuated from coastal areas along India’s eastern seaboard and state officials reached out to the military for help as they prepared Friday for a massive cyclone spinning in the Bay of Bengal.

Officials cancelled holy day celebrations in coastal Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, with forecasters saying Cyclone Phailin will hit the region Saturday evening.

The Indian Meteorological Department warned that Phailin was a “very severe cyclonic storm” that was expected to hit with maximum sustained winds of 210-220 km/h. The department warned the storm could cause large-scale disruption of power and communication lines, hit rail and road traffic with extensive flooding, and cause extensive damage to crops.

Watch: Flooding already being felt in parts of India

Using trucks and buses, authorities evacuated 40,000 people from 40 villages to government-run shelters, schools and buildings in five districts of Orissa state, said Surya Narayan Patra, the state revenue and disaster management minister.

Tropical Cyclone Phailin in the Bay of Bengal.(Global News/WSI)

Global News/WSI

Patra said authorities plan to take another 100,000 people to safer areas before the cyclone hits the region.

“No one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,” he said.

Authorities also began evacuating 64,000 people from the low-lying areas of three vulnerable districts in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, said state Revenue Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy.

An Indian auto-rickshaw driver pushes his three wheeler through water logged streets during heavy rains in Hyderabad on October 9, 2013. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Officials have been stockpiling emergency food supplies, and setting up shelters for people expected to flee the heavy winds and rains. The Indian air force said four transport planes and 18 helicopters were being kept ready for relief operation in the region.

Weather forecasters had been predicting waves up to 2 metres, but warned that the storm has been gaining strength and its impact could be severe.

The Bay of Bengal has been the scene of the some of the deadliest storms in recent history. A 1999 Odisha cyclone killed 10,000 people.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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