Thousands of people have been evacuated in India as a strong cyclone sweeping through the Bay of Bengal bears down on the country’s east coast.
Authorities evacuated about 150,000 people by late afternoon on Saturday, while around 400,000 more are expected to be relocated by the end of the day.
Officials have been preparing emergency supplies, with rescue teams on standby along the coastlines of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states, as Cyclone Hudhud is anticipated to make landfall near the port city of Visakhapatnam around noon Sunday.
The cyclone was 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Visakhapatnam on Saturday afternoon.
According to the India Meteorological Department, Hudhud is a “very severe” storm that could create winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour and trigger torrential rains when it strikes.
Four districts in Andhra Pradesh, which house over 14 million people, Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari, are likely to be worst hit by the cyclone. Authorities have erected 370 relief camps to house the evacuees.
Meanwhile, four naval ships and nine air force helicopters are said to be on standby for relief and rescue operations in the face of the storm, while army soldiers and federal rescue workers are also on hand.
The Indian Ocean witnesses many cyclones. Twenty-seven out of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history have come through the Bay of Bengal and have hit either India or Bangladesh.
A 1999 cyclone destroyed Orissa’s coastline and left at least 10,000 people dead.
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