At least 440,000 people have now been evacuated parts of India

Bhubaneswar, India -- This time, residents on India'seast coast have no choice.

Disaster officials don't want arepeat of a 1999 cyclone disaster that claimed 10,000 lives, so they areevacuating hundreds of thousands of people as a massive storm in the Bay ofBengal nears landfall.

"We have taken a zero-casualtyapproach," said Odisha state disaster manager Kamal Lochan Mishra. "If people donot move, force will be used to evacuate them."

Tropical Cyclone Phailin isexpected to make landfall somewhere near the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradeshstates in India by 8 p.m. local time (about 11 ET).

At least 440,000 people have nowbeen evacuated from areas at risk, the country's National Disaster ManagementAuthority vice-chairman, Marri Shashidhar Reddy, told reporters at a televisednews conference early Saturday afternoon.

The storm is moving steadilyacross the Bay of Bengal and is now about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from shore,the Indian Meteorological Department said.

It's expected to pack winds of upto 150 mph when it makes landfall and will bring a storm surge of as much as 6or 7 meters (20-23 feet) in places, threatening densely populated areas that arevulnerable to flooding.

There are reports of seven deathsalready in Odisha, as a result of falling trees brought down by strong winds,according to CNN's sister network in India, CNN-IBN.

Many of those evacuated fromlow-lying areas in Odisha left on foot or by bicycle, Mishra said. Evacuationswill continue until Phailin roars ashore, he said.

They are being housed in nearly250 emergency shelters set up in sturdy buildings like schools and governmentoffices.

The cyclone is expected to hitbetween Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Paradip in Odisha, CNN-IBN said.

The Ganjam district of Odisha isexpected to be the worst hit, with disaster preparedness efforts concentratedthere, CNN-IBN reported.

In Gopalpur, a coastal resorttown in Ganjam, restaurants were shuttered and streets deserted Saturdayafternoon, as rain lashed down. Tourists as well as local resident have beenasked to leave the town.


Some fear a repeat of whathappened on October 29, 1999, when Cyclone 05B, also known as the OdishaCyclone, made landfall in the same area, causing the loss of more than 10,000lives.

The strongest tropical cyclonerecorded in the Bay of Bengal, it had winds of 155 mph at landfall and causedmore than $2 billion in damage.

Phailin will be less intensethan that at landfall and is likely to weaken more as it moves on shore, butwill still bring storm surges and dump heavy rainfall on inland areas for thenext two days.

The eye of the storm, which hasbeen getting smaller in size, is expected to pass over the city of Brahmapur.The third largest city on the east coast, Visakhapatnam, is further from thecenter of the storm but will also suffer strong winds.

Hurricane-force winds areexpected to last until noon Sunday, and could extend several hundred kilometersinland as the storm moves into India.

Military units and some 2,300emergency personnel have been deployed with relief materials and medical aid incoastal districts in preparation for Phailin's arrival, CNN-IBN said. More than20 medical teams have also been flown in to the region.

Federal and state governmentministers are being briefed on the situation, the cabinet secretary said.

All flights to Odisha have beencanceled and some train services in the state are also disrupted, CNN's sisternetwork reported.

Disaster preparedness

International humanitarianorganization World Vision said it was helping local community groups prepare forthe cyclone's arrival.

"In a storm of this magnitudethere is the potential for widespread damage to crops and livestock in thelow-lying coastal areas and houses completely wiped away," said Kunal Shah, thehead of World Vision's emergency response in India. "So while we are prayingthis storm loses intensity, we're also preparing."

The organization has worked forthe past several years to train local people in disaster preparedness, includingsearch and rescue, basic first aid and how to protect livestock, and hasthousands of emergency response kits ready to hand out where needed.

"We believe communities arebetter prepared than they were when the devastating cyclone hit in 1999," saidShah.

The force of the storm -- whichis equivalent to a strong Category 4 hurricane -- could change the geography ofthe shoreline in places, creating inlets and eroding beaches, CNN forecasterssaid.

Rough seas,gales

The India MeteorologicalDepartment has warned that Phailin is a "very severe cyclonic storm" and urgedthe evacuation of coastal areas.

Gale-force winds are alreadywhipping coastal areas of Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh and will continue todo so for hours after landfall, it said.

The storm surge could inundatelow-lying areas of Odisha's Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts andthe Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh during landfall, it said.

Rainfall, some of it very heavy,started Friday in coastal Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh. By Saturdayevening inland areas of Odisha and west Bengal state will also get heavyrainfall, its forecast said.

Seas off the coast of Odisha andnorthern Andhra Pradesh have become extremely rough as the cyclone approachesland. Fishing operations are suspended, and all fishermen were advised to returnto shore.

The meteorological departmentwarns of extensive damage to so-called kutcha houses, those made of flimsymaterials such as mud and bamboo, as well as some damage to old buildings.

Power and communication linesare likely to suffer large-scale disruption. Extensive flooding will alsodisrupt rail and road traffic, and crops are likely to suffer major damage, itsaid.

People in affected areas may beat risk from flying debris, as well as the flooding of escape routes. Residentsare advised to stay indoors as the cyclone makes landfall, the forecastsaid.


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