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Cyclone Yaas batters eastern India, 1.2 million seek shelter

Residents walk in a beachfront area as sea water reaches a nearby road while Cyclone Yaas barrels towards India's eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal, in Digha on May 26, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Heavy rains and howling winds lashed eastern India on Wednesday as the COVID-stricken country's second cyclone in as many weeks battered the coast, forcing more than 1.2 million people to seek shelter.

Many scientists say cyclones are becoming more frequent and severe in the northern Indian Ocean as climate change warms the sea.

Last week Cyclone Tauktae claimed at least 155 lives in western India. The latest system, Cyclone Yaas, has forced the evacuation of more than 1.2 million people in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha.

The Indian Meteorological Department said landfall began around 9:00 a.m. (0330 GMT) and warned that it would generate waves higher than rooftops in some areas.

Coastal areas experienced wind gusts up to 155 kilometers (95 miles) an hour and pounding rain.

"We have been experiencing heavy rainfall and strong winds since last night," said Bibhu Prasad Panda, a resident of Balasore district in the storm's path. "Several trees have been uprooted. The cyclone has also led to snapping of overhead electricity cables."

A tornado that preceded the storm left two people electrocuted as it tore through West Bengal's Hooghly district, authorities said.

Kolkata, West Bengal's main city, ordered its international airport to shut down for most of Wednesday. The airport in Odisha's capital, Bhubaneswar, followed suit.

"Every life is precious," said Odisha's chief minister Naveen Patnaik as he appealed for people not to "panic" and to move away from the coast.

A record 4,800 disaster workers had been positioned in the two states, equipped with tree and wire cutters, emergency communications, inflatable boats and medical aid, the National Disaster Response Force said.

(Source: AFP) 

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