India Evacuates 1.1 Million as Cyclone Fani Approaches Coast

(Bloomberg) -- India evacuated 1.1 million people from Odisha state as the landfall process of a category 4 storm started over the country’s east coast, disrupting flights and hampering oil exploration in the area.

Cyclone Fani, which is forecast to be the worst storm since 2014, is expected to have a top wind speed of about 200 kilometers (124 miles) per hour. Flights and train services remain suspended, offshore oil exploration activities have been called off. The navy and the coast guard are on alert and have deployed ships and helicopters for relief operations.

India Evacuates 1.1 Million as Cyclone Fani Approaches Coast

“We have adequate food material and have tried to do our best to deal with the situation,” said Bishnupada Sethi, special relief commissioner with the Odisha government. “No damage and loss of lives reported so far.”

Odisha is battered by cyclonic storms every year with some intense enough to damage crops, plantations, trees, mud houses and communication and electric poles, as well as disrupt road traffic and transportation of essential goods. Severe storms also affect operations at oil and gas fields in the region and threaten lives of people and animals.

Neighboring Bangladesh is also on high alert. It ordered evacuation of people to cyclone shelters in 19 coastal districts, according to Disaster Management Secretary Shah Kamal.

India Evacuates 1.1 Million as Cyclone Fani Approaches Coast

Oil & Natural Gas Corp. has suspended its offshore exploration in the region and has towed five of its six drilling rigs in the Bay of Bengal to the coast as a precautionary measure. It has evacuated almost 500 people working at its fields. State-run National Aluminium Co. said a cable belt conveyor from the mines to its refinery will be stopped in the event of heavy gusts, while heavy equipment operating in the field will get proper anchoring and locking.

India Evacuates 1.1 Million as Cyclone Fani Approaches Coast

Cyclone Fani is likely to have a sustained wind speed of 170-180 kilometers per hour. That compares with Hudhud storm’s wind speed of 180 kilometers in 2014, according to data from the weather office. Cyclone Phailin, that battered Odisha and parts of Andhra Pradesh in 2013, saw surface wind speeds of about 215 kilometers per hour.

The state was hit by a super cyclone in 1999 with wind speeds that were estimated to have reached a maximum 270 kilometers an hour leaving almost 10,000 people dead. The ensuing rains caused flooding and temporarily cut off the state from the rest of the country.

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