Roaring winds and heavy rains lashed coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh as cyclonic storm Phailin kept advancing from the Bay of Bengal to hit their coast by Saturday evening.
Issuing a warning for Odisha and north Andhra coasts, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said Phailin lay about 260 km southeast of Gopalpur and 310 km south-southeast of Paradip, both places in Odisha.
"It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coasts between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur by evening as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 210-220 kmph gusting to 240 kmph," it said.
IMD officials said the "very severe" cyclonic storm would make the landfall between 6 and 8 p.m. It was likely to retain its intensity six hours after the landfall.
Parts of Odisha and Andhra coasts received eight to 10 cm rainfall accompanied by high winds since Friday night.
The IMD has forecast heavy to very heavy rains in coastal Odisha, north coastal Andhra and isolated heavy rains in West Bengal during the next 48 hours.
Gale winds with speeds reaching 70-80 kmph would hit the Odisha-Andhra coast.
It would intensify to 100-150 kmph from noon and 210-220 kmph, gusting to 235 kmph along and off the coastal districts of north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha at the time of landfall.
It has also warned that storms surging to a height of 3 to 3.5 metre above astronomical tide would inundate low lying areas of Ganjam, Khurda, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
About three lakh people in Odisha and 64,000 in north coastal Andhra were evacuated while the army, navy and air force as well as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were on alert for rescue and relief work.
Authorities in Odisha continued their efforts to evacuate people from the low-laying areas of the coast to cyclone shelters and high rise buildings.
Special relief commissioner Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra said about three lakh people have been moved to safety and more people were likely to be shifted.
Mohapatra told IANS the wind speed was picking up in several areas. In Ganjam, it has reached 60-80 km/h and the sea was witnessing high tide.
The cyclone, which is expected to make landfall in Gopalpur area of Ganjam district, is likely to cause damage in the coastal district of Ganjam, Gajapati, Khordha, Puri and Jagatsinghpur. Many other districts were also likely to be affected by heavy rains and flooding.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall is expected at most places. Some places may witness extremely heavy falls of about 25 centimeters, the weather office said.
Eighteen fishermen, who went for fishing in the Bay of Bengal in a trawler over a week ago, were stranded in the sea in Astaranga area of Puri district. The Coast Guard has been told to rescue them, police told IANS.
Many low laying areas were inundated due to heavy rains. Similarly, road communications have been disrupted in some places of Ganjam and Jagatsinghpur districts. Power lines have also hit.
The state government said food grain and other essential commodities have been stocked in cyclone relief centres. People taking shelter in these centres were provided cooked food.
Relief and rescue officials have reached vulnerable places. At least 28 teams of NDRF would be pressed into relief and rescue work, and 20 of them have reached the vulnerable area.
About 10 choppers have been kept in West Bengal for air dropping relief materials as the Bhubaneswar airport may be affected by the rough weather.
Over 64,000 people were evacuated from low lying areas near the coast in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts in Andhra Pradesh. Authorities went on high alert in all nine coastal districts.
Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation N. Raghuveera Reddy, who reached Visakhapatnam, told reporters that the army, navy and NDRF were on standby and helicopters were ready for rescue work.
NDRF teams have reached Srikakulam district, which is receiving heavy rains since Friday night, inundating several low-lying villages.
Fishermen have been warned not to venture into the sea.
Railways have cancelled all trains in north coastal Andhra including the trains between Andhra and Odisha. Air services between Visakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar have also been suspended.