The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is forecasting that Cyclone Phailin with sustained wind speeds of up to 185 km per hour (115 mph) gushing to 200 km per hour would hit peninsular India on Saturday evening from 6.00 pm onwards.
The category 5 cyclone, termed as Very Severe Cyclone Storm, will impact the coastal states of Odisha, Bengal and Andhra Pradesh where hundreds of thousands of villagers and cattle have started fleeing their homes. Millions of people are expected to face electricity black-outs as regional governments have called on AK Anthony, India's powerful defense minister, to mobilize Indian military for disaster management.
Cyclone Phailin has filled almost the entire territory of Bay of Bengal, as tidal waves of over 7 feet are approaching and Indian authorities fear "extreme damage" and flooding of coastal districts of eastern peninsular India. People are desperately stocking up food, fuel, fresh water, and medical supplies while schools and colleges have been ordered closed.
The menacing storm will interrupt one of the holiest festivals in Hinduism, the Durga Ashtami, as India's dilapidated transportation networks scramble to evacuate as many lives as possible.
According to US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center, wind gusts of up to 315 km per hour might build-up, considerably stronger than Indian meteorological forecasts. British storm tracking service Tropical Storm Risk has termed Phailin as a "super cyclone."
Other forecasters are comparing Phailin to Katrina which devastated Louisiana in 2005.
The special relief commissioner of the coastal state of Odisha, Pradeep Kumar Mohapatra, claims that 0.5 million people are expected to move to temporary shelters, stocked with food, medicines, fuel, and mobile clinics.
Bay of Bengal has been the stage for some of the deadliest storms in overpopulated Indian Subcontinent's history. The 1999 Orissa cyclone took the lives of 10,000 people, with millions more stranded. The 1970 Bhola cyclone, which devastated Bangladesh (then part of Pakistan), remains the deadliest ever, with up to 500,000 deaths and millions of casualties, due to massive flooding of Gangetic river delta.