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article imageDeath toll rises to 7 as Cyclone Fani makes landfall in India

By Karen Graham     May 3, 2019 in World
Cyclone Fani, one of the strongest storms to strike India in the last 20 years, made landfall around 8 a.m. Friday morning, local time, pummeling the country's east coast with the equivalent force of a Category 3 hurricane.
Odisha Police Director General Sanjeeb Panda told CNN Fani is being blamed for at least seven fatalities. The storm made landfall near the city of Puri, in Odisha state.
A spokesperson with India’s government reported “extensive damage” to houses, old buildings, and temporary shops in Puri, with a complete loss of power. India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state forces are already at work clearing roads blocked off by downed trees left behind by Fani’s strong winds.
According to AccuWeather, 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.
More than 1 million people were evacuated ahead of the storm, while 11 districts along the Odisha coast were placed on red alert, and some 900 cyclone shelters were set up to house evacuees.
The storm has already been downgraded to what would be called a Category 2 Hurricane and is now moving north along India's east coast. However, dangerous impacts still persist. It's expected to hit Bangladesh soon, and the country has been conducting mass evacuations all day on Friday.
In Bangladesh, Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management and relief said that over 404,225 people from the coastal regions have been evacuated and taken to cyclone shelters, so far.
Fani's power is so strong it is being felt 500 miles away, on Mount Everest. Mountaineers and Sherpa guides have been descending to lower camps as the weather worsened at higher elevations. The government of Nepal issued a warning saying that heavy snowfall was expected in the higher mountain areas with rain and storms lower down the mountain.
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.
India has success with its national disaster plan
In 1999, the state of Odisha was slammed by a devastating cyclone that claimed more than 10,000 lives. This event spurred an overhaul of India's disaster response infrastructure.
In 2005, India set up its National Disaster Management Authority, a central agency charged with one thing: responding to and minimizing the impact of disasters. And in 2006, India set up its National Disaster Response Force, a specialized corps of highly trained men and women focused on disasters such as cyclones and earthquakes. They now have 25,000 members.
Prime Minister Narendra met with officials from his administration on Thursday and preparations were begun to evacuate citizens in the path of the cyclone as well as open shelters. A cascade of extraordinary safety measures was also put into place, from closing airports to suspending rail operations. Modi also posted a message on Twitter, offering "prayers for the safety and well being of our citizens."
More about India, cyclone fani, category 3 storm, Mount everest, Flooding
 
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