Cyclone Fani death toll reaches nearly 30 in India and Bangladesh
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to strike India in the last 20 years, made landfall early Friday morning, local time, pummeling the country's east coast with the equivalent force of a Category 3 hurricane. Fani is being blamed for at least 28 fatalities, according to Al Jazeera.
A spokesperson with India’s government reported “extensive damage” to houses, old buildings and temporary shops in Puri, a city located in the state of Odisha, according to Asian News International (ANI), as well as a complete loss of power to the area. Officials had been concerned about the welfare of the city's 858-year-old Jagannath temple during Fani's onslaught, according to BBC News. India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state forces worked to clear roads blocked off by downed trees left behind by Fani’s strong winds.
Fani makes landfall across eastern India
Fani crossed the Odisha coast, close to Puri, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time Friday, thus making it an official landfall, the India Meteorological Department said.
(AP Photo/Bikas Das)
At landfall, Fani was classified as an extremely severe cyclonic storm with winds of 180-190 km/h (112-118 mph) with gusts to 200 km/h (124 mph), which is equal to a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic or East Pacific oceans.
It has since been downgraded to a tropical depression. However, dangerous impacts still persist.
Fani is the strongest cyclone this early in the year in the North Indian Ocean since Cyclone Nargis in 2008, according to Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University.
The sky darkened ahead of the ferocious storm's landfall, turning surrounding coastal areas into an apocalyptic scene. Once on land, the storm's fierce winds tore the roofs off many buildings and sent numerous trees toppling to the ground. Videos on social media showed a large crane being blown over in Bhubaneswar.
It is a “very, very scary feeling,” Tanmay Das, a 40-year-old resident told the Associated Press. Das described the sound of wind "as if it will blow you away.”
The Bhubaneswar Airport recorded a wind gust of 130 km/h (81 mph) Friday morning, local time.
Impacts from the storm are being felt as far away as Mount Everest. The AP reported some mountaineers and Sherpa guides were descending to lower camps as weather worsened at higher elevations. Nepal's government issued a warning for heavy snowfall in higher mountain areas, while rain and storms were expected in lower elevations.
About 20 tents were blown off the side of the mountain, Agency France-Presse reported.
"Very strong winds blew the tents off the mountain but no one was hurt," Ishwori Poudel, general secretary of the Expedition Operators Association, told AFP.
At the height of the storm, one woman gave birth at a hospital in Bhubaneswar. She delivered about an hour after the storm made landfall and reportedly gave the baby girl an apt name: Fani. According to Zee News, this is the first child for the 32-year-old woman, who is a worker for East Coast Railway, which shared a photo of the newborn from the delivery room.
Bhubaneswar: A 32-year-old woman gave birth to a baby girl in Railway Hospital today at 11:03 AM. Baby has been named after the cyclonic storm, Fani. The woman is a railway employee, working as a helper at Coach Repair Workshop, Mancheswar. Both the mother&child are fine. #Odisha pic.twitter.com/xHGTkFPlAe— ANI (@ANI) May 3, 2019
Government preparation in advance of Fani
Over 1 million people were evacuated ahead of the cyclone's strike on the eastern India coastline. One government official said the evacuation effort is the largest in the nation's history, according to the AP. Nearly 100,000 of those evacuated are from the Puri alone.
Officials have opened more than 850 shelters which are believed to hold around one million people. Schools and universities have been closed in advance of the approaching storm. Prime Minister Narendra met with officials from his administration on Thursday to discuss storm preparations and, in a message posted on Twitter, offered "prayers for the safety and well being of our citizens."
In anticipation of Fani's arrival, operations at Paradip Port in Odisha were suspended beginning on Wednesday night, in a cascade of extraordinary safety measures. Kolkata airport will be closed until 8 a.m. Saturday, local time, Doordarshan News reported, and more than 100 trains have been canceled and two more diverted due to Fani, according to India Today.
The storm struck the county while the nation is in the middle of a six-week general election. Some political parties were forced to cancel events, the AP said.
Officials planned to evacuate 2.1 million people before Fani slammed into Bangladesh.
Fani to bring heavy, flooding rain to North East India this weekend
Fani lost some wind intensity prior to landfall, but it is expected to remain a dangerous storm as it spreads heavy rain across North East India into Sunday.
During this time, life-threatening flooding is still possible along with an elevated risk for mudslides across the rugged terrain of the region.
Rainfall amounts of 150-300 mm (6-12 inches) are expected through Sunday.
The hardest-hit locations could have an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 500 mm (20 inches).
Download the free AccuWeather App to get the latest forecast on Cyclone Fani's impact in your area.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister and Staff Writer Kevin Byrne contributed to this article.
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