India has begun evacuating millions of people along its eastern coast ahead of a super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal.
The storm is expected to make landfall on Wednesday and hit West Bengal and Orissa (Odisha) states.
More than 20 relief teams have already been deployed, and several more are on standby, officials say.
The cyclone as tens of thousands of migrant workers flee cities for their villages during India’s lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
West Bengal and Orissa are among the states that are seeing a larger number of them return.
Orissa has now cancelled trains which were due to arrive between 18 and 20 May with thousands of migrants.
And some district officials have barred entry into their areas and requested the state government to accommodate the migrants – many of whom are walking home – elsewhere until the storm passes.
The evacuation is expected to continue into tomorrow morning.
State officials are also struggling to find shelters for evacuees. In Orissa, for instance, 250 of the more than 800 existing shelters are being used as quarantine centres.
So both states have asked for schools and other buildings in the areas likely to be impacted by the super cyclone to be turned into temporary shelters – they need more than the usual numbers in order to house people while enforcing social distancing norms.
This would be the first super cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 super cyclone that hit the Orissa coast and killed more than 9,000 people, according to BBC Weather.
India’s meteorological department has issued a “yellow alert” for the region, advising fishermen not to “venture into the south Bay of Bengal during the next 24 hours, and north Bay of Bengal from 18-20 May”.
The weather department said the storm is likely to move across the north-west Bay of Bengal and cross West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts from noon local time on 20 May as a “very severe cyclonic storm”.
It also warned of rough seas, with storm surges that could inundate coastal areas.
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