October 10, 2018 / 7:04 PM / 7 months ago

More than 300,000 evacuated as cyclone intensifies off eastern India

BHUBANESWAR, India, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Authorities in India’s eastern state of Odisha evacuated 300,000 people, suspended operations at a major port and cancelled many trains and flights on Wednesday as a severe cyclone in the Bay of Bengal gains strength and barrels towards the state.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) rated Titli as a “very severe cyclonic storm” that could pack gusts of up to 165 kph by the time it makes landfall early on Thursday.

The IMD warned the cyclone is likely to uproot trees, power and communication poles, destroy coastal houses with thatched roofs, and damage roads, crops and plantations. It also issued a storm surge warning and said it expects low-lying areas in Odisha and the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh to be inundated.

At least 300,000 people have been evacuated from the low lying areas of five coastal districts in Odisha state.

“We have shifted them to shelters for safety as a one-meter-high storm surge is likely to inundate low lying areas,” Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi told Reuters.

The Odisha Chief Minister’s office in a tweet said schools and colleges across the state would remain closed for the next two days.

“Operations at Paradip port have been suspended and all ships have been shifted to deep sea,” the Deputy Conservator of Paradip Port Captain A.K. Mohapatra told Reuters.

“All ships have been removed from the harbour,” he said.

Indian Railways in a statement said it had cancelled several trains and a senior official at the Biju Patnaik International Airport (BPIA) in the state capital Bhubaneswar said several flights had also been cancelled.

The Bay of Bengal often witnesses cyclones at this time of year, and some have led to widespread death and destruction. The state of Odisha was last month hit by the low-intensity cyclone Daye. (Editing by Euan Rocha and Janet Lawrence)

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