Up to 1.2 million people have been evacuated after a large tropical storm barrelled into east India this morning. Cyclone Fani slammed the tourist town of Puri and neighbouring areas in the state of Odisha at around 8am.
The India Meterological Department said heavy rains and winds of up to 127 mph are still battering the area in what is believed to be the fiercest cyclone in the past two decades.
Power lines and trees have been brought down although there are no reports yet of any casualties.
The storm is moving east towards Bangladesh and preparations are being made to evacuate a further 500,000 people there.
The ‘extremely severe’ Grade 5 cyclone is the strongest one to hit the Indian state of Odisha since 1999, when around 10,000 people were killed.
The storm is the fourth to hit India’s east coast in the past three years. Up to 200 people were killed and hundreds displaced by Cyclone Ockhi when it struck in 2017.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority has warned fishermen on the east coast not to go out at sea as conditions are ‘phenomenal’.
The agency warned on Twitter that ‘total destruction of thatched houses’ was possible, as well as ‘extensive damage’ to other structures.
It has also posted a list of dos and don’ts in a bid to guide locals to safety.