NEW DELHI — An extremely powerful cyclone roared ashore Friday morning in eastern India, bringing pounding rain, giant waves and wind speeds of up to 130 mph as tens of millions of people in the coastal state of Odisha sought shelter from the storm.
In Odisha, the storm — the most dangerous in recent years — brought daily life to a halt. Power and communication lines snapped. The airport in the state capital of Bhubaneswar remained closed and more than 100 trains were canceled as residents were advised to stay indoors. The neighboring states of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were also receiving very heavy rainfall.
Images shared by police showed uprooted trees blocking roads as they were being cleared in real time.
On Thursday, state authorities evacuated more than 1.1 million people in about 12 hours, according to Bishnupada Sethi, the special relief commissioner overseeing the operation. “We moved people into multipurpose shelters which can withstand high-speed winds, floods and lightning,” he said.
He said the prompt evacuation was helping to keep the death toll low. As of early evening local time, there were three confirmed deaths from across the state because of the storm. More than 160 people were being treated for minor injuries. The extent of the damage to homes and infrastructure was not immediately clear.
“Our priority over the next 24 hours is to restore power and communication,” Sethi said. The storm’s strength ebbed slightly after it made landfall, although it remained highly dangerous.
Central government officials shared images of damage caused by the cyclone to the state’s main hospital. In one video, a part of the roof is seen flying off.
In previous hurricanes, the damage and death tolls have been much higher in the low-lying, densely populated areas of eastern India. In 1999, a devastating Category 5 storm killed more than 10,000 people.
Authorities changed the way they prepared for such storms in the wake of that disaster. Cyclone Phailin in 2013 caused heavy damage as well, but thanks to better forecasts and planned evacuations, the death toll was in the dozens.