India World

Cyclone Gulab: Heavy rains and strong winds hit India’s east coast, thousands evacuated

A cyclone packing strong winds and rains hit India’s east coast, as tens of thousands of people in three states were evacuated to shelters.

Heavy rains and strong winds were reported along the coast on Sunday evening as the tropical storm over the Bay of Bengal began making landfall, barely four months after another cyclone hit the region, leaving destruction in its wake.

Cloud bands had touched the coastal regions of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh indicating Cyclone Gulab had begun to make landfall, the India Meteorological Department tweeted.

The storm with wind speeds up to 95kmh was expected to cross the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states by midnight.

The weather office said very heavy rainfall was expected.

Thousands of people have been moved to storm shelters in the coastal areas of southern Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh, officials said. Others were advised to avoid rivers and canals and stay at home.

“People have been asked to stay alert, as the high-speed winds can uproot electricity poles, trees, hoardings and the rains can cause sudden overflows in canals and streams,” Andhra Pradesh official G Srijana said.

Odisha Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said seven districts in the state were on high alert and evacuation efforts were under way.

In Andhra Pradesh, some 85,000 families were expected to be moved from low-lying areas to temporary relief shelters.

Rescue teams of disaster relief operations personnel had been deployed across the entire region, National Disaster Response Force chief Satya Pradhan said.

In May, more than a million people were evacuated from their homes along India’s east coast before it was battered by Cyclone Yaas with winds gusting up to 155kmh, equivalent to a category two hurricane.

At least 20 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in the storm, which caused widespread damage worth more than $2 billion in Odisha and West Bengal states and in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Cyclones often form over the Bay of Bengal between April and November, bringing widespread destruction and flooding to Indian coastal areas.