Satellite images showed Cyclone Phailin 600 km (360 miles) off the coast in the Bay of Bengal and likely to make landfall on Saturday evening. The images showed the storm covering an area roughly half the size of
Some forecasters likened its size and intensity to that of hurricane Katrina, which devastated the U.S. Gulf coast and
in 2005. New Orleans
The Indian Meteorological Department described Phailin as a "very severe cyclonic storm" with wind speeds of 210-220 km per hour (130-135 mph) and said it would hit between Kalingapatnam and the major
in Odisha state. The U.S. Navy's
Joint Typhoon Warning Centre predicted gusts of up to 305 kph. port of Paradip
"We plan to evacuate about 100,000 families in Ganjam district by tomorrow morning," Odisha state's Special Relief Commissioner, Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra,said to reporter.
State authorities said 5,000 families had already moved into shelters and schools. Shelters were being stocked with rations and leave for government employees were cancelled.
The government broadcast cyclone warnings through loudspeakers and on radio and television as the first winds were felt on the coast and in the state capital,
People living in thatched houses in low-lying areas were told to move to
cyclone shelters, high-rise buildings and other safer places. Bhubaneswar
Residents reported 3.5 m (12 feet) waves, but fishermen hoped the storm would pass over and were reluctant to leave their boats.Helicopters were on standby in neighbouring West Bengal, ready to drop food packets into isolated areas, officials said.
Indian authorities warned of extensive damage to crops, village dwellings and old buildings, as well as disruption of power, water and rail services.
"Within 12 hours of cyclone strike we will try to clear all the roads. Within 24 hours we will try to restore water supply and electricity." Mohapatra added.