12 Oct 2013

Massive storm bears down on India's east coast

9:06 pm on 12 October 2013

More than 400,000 people in India have been evacuated as a massive cyclone sweeps through the Bay of Bengal towards the east coast.

Cyclone Phailin is sweeping towards the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

It's hitting a region already saturated by monsoon rains, and is expected to pound the coast with 9 metre waves.

The Meteorological Department has predicted the storm will bring winds up to 220 kmh.

A deadly super-cyclone in 1999 killed more than 10,000 people in Orissa.

But officials say this time they are better prepared.

However, the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii is forecasting even stronger winds, predicting sustained speeds of up to 269 kmh while London-based Tropical Storm Risk classified Phailin as a Category Five storm - the most powerful.

The army is on standby in the two states for emergency and relief operations. Officials said helicopters and food packages were ready to be dropped in the storm-affected areas.

The Times of India newspaper warned that local meteorologists may be underestimating the severity of the storm.