Bhubaneswar (Odisha), [Hindustan Times & Agencies]:
The strongest cyclone to threaten India in more than a decade bore down on its east coast on Saturday as authorities bused and trucked tens of thousands of villagers from their mud and thatch coastal homes to government shelters inland.
With Cyclone Phailin apprehended to hit the land at Gopalpur in less than 8 hours from now, the sea has already turned turbulent forcing the fishing
Paradip Marine Fisheries Officer Ranjit Keshari Dash said there were no reports of any fishing vessel stranded in the deep sea.
The countdown for the cyclone began with most of Odisha recording incessant rainfall from mid-night even as Odisha government evacuated about 3 lakh people from low lying areas of seven districts to be affected by it.
Officials canceled Durga Puja celebrations and stockpiled emergency supplies in coastal Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, with forecasters saying Cyclone Phailin, a massive storm that nearly covers the Bay of Bengal, 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 kilometers (130-135 miles) per hour.
However, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii forecast maximum sustained winds of 269 kilometers (167 miles) per hour with gusts up to 315 kilometers (196 miles) per hour.
US meteorologists said the storm is flirting with historic power.
“If it’s not a record it’s really, really close,” University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told The Associated Press.
“You really don’t get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever. This is the top of the barrel.”
To compare to killer US storms, McNoldy said Phailin is near the size of 2005′s Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people and caused devastating flooding in New Orleans, but Phailin also has the wind power of 1992′s Hurricane Andrew, which had 165 mph (265 kph) winds at landfall in Miami.
The storm shows no sign of weakening and has an impressive eye, said Ryan Maue of the private weather firm Weather Bell. He called it a “critically dangerous situation with a rare Category 5 landfall,” which he said in that region has a history of being catastrophic.
Category 5 storms have winds exceeding 155 mph.