A powerful cyclone has ripped through eastern India, killing at least two people and damaging dozens of homes as authorities tried to move more than a million people to safety from low-lying areas as it approaches the east coast.
Cyclone Yaas was powering across the Bay of Bengal and would batter the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, and also Bangladesh, on Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
“It is likely to cause large-scale damage,” IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra told Reuters news agency by telephone.
It is expected to produce storm surges of up to 4 metres (13 feet), which are likely to inundate low-lying coastal areas.
A freak cyclone that some experts said was linked to the incoming storm snapped electricity lines, which electrocuted two people, and damaged about 45 houses in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, a government official said.
The state had already moved about 900,000 people in several coastal districts to storm shelters, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters.
Neighbouring Odisha state appeared to face the brunt of Cyclone Yaas – the second cyclone to hit the country in a week – where officials also began moving people in cars and boats into storm shelters and other sturdy structures.
In Odisha’s Balasore district, close to where the cyclone is expected to make landfall, volunteers broadcast alerts over megaphones, urging people to move.
“Evacuation is always a challenge. In general, there is a reluctance,” said Vishal Kumar Dev, an official overseeing relief efforts in Balasore. “Often people say, ‘we’ll go only when the rain increases.’ We’re convincing them.”
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common at this time of year, and often roar ashore, causing deaths and destruction in coastal areas of India and Bangladesh.
Last week, Cyclone Tauktae – the most powerful cyclone to hit India’s west coast in more than 20 years – killed more than 150 people.