Cyclone Slams Into India’s Coast
BHUBANESWAR, India (AP) _ A powerful cyclone, the second in two weeks, slammed into India’s eastern coast today as authorities packed villagers into trucks and evacuated 20,000 people.
The cyclone bearing winds up to 155 mph hit along 300 miles of coastline in the states of Orissa and West Bengal at midday today.
Early reports said two people were crushed to death by a wall that collapsed in the port city of Paradwip, where 2,000 houses were damaged, Press Trust of India reported.
Even when the full-blown storm was still several miles offshore, powerful winds flattened simple mud huts and uprooted trees. Telephone lines were knocked out, making it difficult to get an accurate account of the storm’s severity in Paradwip, about 55 miles east of the Orissa state capital, Bhubaneswar.
``Its a rare supercyclone,″ said L.K. Chand of the meteorological office in Bhubaneswar.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered thousands of soldiers stationed in the area to be ready to help with emergencies.
District officials sent trucks to coastal villages to move residents to solidly built schools and public buildings. The evacuation began Thursday evening and went on through the night.
By midday today, the sky turned inky black and waves rearing 13 to 15 feet high crashed against the shore. The government canceled trains traveling to and from the area, fearing the wind would blow carriages off their tracks.
Officials in the coastal districts stocked up on food and other essential in anticipation of shortages.
On the other side of the Bay of Bengal, authorities in Bangladesh scaled down their storm warning, but thousands of volunteers remained on an evacuation alert.
Just 12 days ago, more than 100 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured by another cyclone that roared in from the Bay of Bengal and devastated the Orissa coastline.