An enormous tropical cyclone made landfall in eastern India Friday near the coastal city of Puri, impacting an area that’s home to tens of millions of people.
It’s believed the storm, called Cyclone Fani (pronounced “Foni”), struck the coast with winds in excess of 115 miles per hour (equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane). That makes it the strongest storm to hit India in 20 years.
The storm has since weakened but will remain a dangerous system as it moves up India’s east coast toward Bangladesh, where 2.1 million people are expected to be evacuated, according to CNN. Flash flooding and potentially deadly landslides may occur. So far, three deaths have been reported due to the storm. Overall, the United Nations warns that 28 million people live in the path of the storm.
As New Delhi Television notes:
A teenager was killed when a tree came crashing down on him in Puri. Flying debris from a concrete structure hit a woman in Nayagarh district. In Kendrapara, a 65-year-old woman died after suspected heart attack at a cyclone shelter.
Tropical cyclones are the exact same weather phenomenon as hurricanes. And the winds are just one of the risks they bring.
This monster storm also brought with it a storm surge of 13 feet in some areas, according to the Weather Channel. Storm surge is a literal wall of water a cyclone pushes onshore, and it tends to be the deadliest feature of a cyclone. It can also be very destructive (as we saw with Hurricane Sandy in 2012).
In preparation for Cyclone Fani, more than a million people were evacuated in coastal areas in the Indian state Odisha, where the storm hit. Some 4,000 shelters were set up in the region. Train stations and airports were closed.
The evacuations were justified. In 1999, a similar sized storm hit Odisha and killed nearly 10,000 people.