Indian authorities were evacuating hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday as a powerful cyclone swept through the Bay of Bengal and headed toward the country’s east coast.
Officials were stockpiling emergency supplies and rescue workers were on standby along the coastlines of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states, with Cyclone Hudhud expected to make landfall near the port city of Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
The India Meteorological Department described Hudhud as a “very severe” storm that could pack winds of 120 miles per hour and cause torrential rains when it makes landfall.
The cyclone was 205 miles south east of Visakhapatnam on Saturday afternoon.
About 150,000 people have been evacuated, with around 400,000 more expected to be relocated by the end of the day.
Four districts in Andhra Pradesh state that are home to more than 14 million people – Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari – are likely to be worst hit by the storm. Authorities in the state set up 370 relief camps to house evacuees.
Officials said four naval ships and nine air force helicopters were on standby for relief and rescue operations, while army soldiers and federal rescue workers were also on hand.
The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal – and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. In 1999, a cyclone devastated Orissa’s coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.
Last October nearly a million people were evacuated out of the path of Cyclone Phailin, the strongest tropical storm to hit India in more than a decade.