Cyclone Phailin is turning into a super storm that has grown even larger than Hurricane Katrina, and has the potential to leave thousands in India dead or homeless.
The cyclone has sustained wind speeds of 135 miles per hour, and could climb close to 150 as it moved toward India, forecasters say. Provinces in the path of Cyclone Phailin have already begun evacuating people from low-lying areas as they brace for the storm to make landfall.
“The US Navy has also forecast that the wind speed will be above 240 kmph. Therefore, the cyclone is not less than any super cyclone for us,” Special Relief Commissioner Commissioner P K Mohapatra said.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall near Gopalpur in Ganjam district after crossing between Paradip in Odisha and Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Already there have been 64,000 people evacuated in north coastal districts.
The Indian Navy and other agencies remain on standby to help states affected by the cyclone in the expected relief and rescue operations.
“We are ready to provide whatever help the state government asks for. We have also appealed to people to be ready for evacuation in short notice,” said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vice-Chairman Shashidhar Reddy.
In Odisha, the health department has called all doctors back from vacation and leave in anticipation of the storm. Travel has also been affected, with East Coast Railway planning to regulate and cancel 24 passenger train lines starting on Saturday. Officials said they expect roads, houses, and bridges to be affected by the cyclone.
Officials have compared Cyclone Phailin to a 1990 storm that devastated coastal regions and left more than 10,000 people dead. It is already bigger in size and scope than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.