Bhubaneswar: Cyclonic storm "Phailin", classified as "very severe", is barreling towards coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh at wind speeds averaging 200 km per hour and is expected to hit the states around 6 pm. Some weathermen are describing it as potentially India's version of 'hurricane Katrina', one of the deadliest storms in US history.
Here are the latest updates
1. Experts say the wind speed is at 200 to 210 km per hour and is expected to touch 230 km per hour when the cyclone hits the coasts of Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh. However, the US Navy says winds may reach 315 kmph on windfall, classifying Phailin as a Category 5 storm - the most powerful.
2. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) says 1.2 crore [12 million] people will be affected by the cyclone. "Have to accept the situation has worsened from what we had anticipated. Things have changed from the bulletin we received last evening," said NDMA Vice Chairman M Shashidhar Reddy.
3. The Indian Meteorological Department or IMD has said Phailin will remain a "very severe" cyclone, but it is not right to call it a super-cyclone yet. "Super cyclone is above 220 kmph and gusting upto 250, so this is touch and go. We are monitoring closely and don't expect further intensification," said Dr LS Rathore, Director General, IMD.
4. Odisha, which faced the destruction and devastation of 1999's super-cyclone, says it is not ready to take any chances this time around. Odisha's Disaster Management Minister Surya Narayan Patra told NDTV, "We are fighting against nature. We are better prepared this time, we learnt a lot from 1999." Nearly 15,000 people died in the super-cyclone that ravaged Odisha in 1999.
5. The Odisha government has mounted a massive operation to evacuate two lakh [200,000] people from six coastal districts. Nearly a lakh of people have already been evacuated from Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara districts.NDTV has much more coverage available here. You can also track #Phailin on Twitter. The English-language media in Odisha state aren't very useful, but in Andhra Pradesh I recommend the coverage in Deccan Chronicle.