Tue, 24 Nov 2020

At Least 3 Dead as Cyclone Fani Hits Eastern India

Voice of America
04 May 2019, 05:37 GMT+10

At least three people have died since Cyclone Fani crashed into the eastern coast of India, bringing heavy rain and winds to the coastal state of Odisha early Friday.

Officials say more than 160 people were injured in the onset of the storm. More than one million heeded government warnings and moved into storm shelters before the storm came ashore.

Cyclone tracker Tropical Storm Risk rated Fani as a category 4 storm, a notch below the worst level.

More than 100 million people are in the path of the cyclone, which uprooted trees and downed power and telephone lines as the chaos of wind and rain hit land.

Airports in Bhubaneswar and Kolkata were closed, and some 200 train routes were suspended. Kolkata, in West Bengal territory, is expected to be hit farther along in the storm's path.

Communities away from the coast are bracing for heavy flooding. Rainfall of 20 to 25 centimeters (8-10 inches) was expected over a widespread area.

Fani intensified significantly over the past couple of days, prompting the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to refer to it as an 'extremely severe cyclonic storm.'

Forecasters predicted the storm could trigger weather events as far away as Mount Everest dust storms in the desert Rajasthan state, heat waves in the coastal state of Maharashtra, heavy rain in northeastern states and snow in the Himalayas.

At Mount Everest base camp, climbers huddled with their crews, prohibited by poor visibility from attempting to reach the summit. May is usually the best month, weather-wise, for attempts to reach the peak.

Puri, where the storm made landfall, is home to the 13th century Konarak Temple that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Jagganath Temple, one of the most holy in Hinduism.

Eastern India is no stranger to deadly storms. In 1999, a supercyclone hit Odisha, killing more than 10,000 people. Four years later, the toll was significantly lower when Cyclone Phailin hit the state. Because of improved forecasting and evacuation system, more than 1.3 million people were moved out of harm's way, resulting in a few dozen deaths, rather than thousands.

On Tuesday, Fani became the strongest storm in the north Indian Ocean this early in the season, passing Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 100,000 people in Myanmar in 2008.

The north Indian Ocean cyclone season doesn't have a defined start and end like the Atlantic hurricane season. Instead, it has two main periods of activity: late April to early June, and October to November.

Fani is the first cyclone of the 2019 season.

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