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Cyclone Fani threatens 100 million in India
May 2 (UPI) -- Emergency officials put India's upper East Coast on high alert Thursday as Cyclone Fani threatened more than 100 million people as it approached with the power of a Category 3 hurricane.
The states of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal appeared to be in the path of the powerful storm, which is expected to make landfall Friday. Meteorologists measured Fani's winds at 118 mph Thursday with gust reaching 124 mph.
Forecasters warned that conditions could even allow the storm to increase its wind speeds to a Category 5 level, 157 mph and above, before landfall.
Officials have set up about 900 evacuation shelters in Odisha, while emergency teams went door to door to warn people of the powerful storm coming.
"They are being told what to take with them if they leave and the precautions they need to take if they stay," Ameya Patnaik, assistant commandant for the National Disaster Response Force in Odisha, said.
ONGC, India's largest oil and gas company, removed nearly 500 employees from offshore sites in the Bay of Bengal and transported drilling rigs to more secure locations Thursday ahead of the storm.
Railway authorities canceled 89 trains in the areas likely affected by the storm, but three special trains were put into service to move people from the threatened region. Government officials have advised all tourists to leave the areas.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a cyclone-preparedness meeting Thursday with some of his top cabinet officials. He was briefed on awareness and preparatory efforts being made the region where the cyclone is expected to strike.
Modi urged officials to establish a close line of contact with state officials, make arrangements to quickly restore electricity and communications in the area and deployed the armed forces to help with recovery efforts.