Eastern India braces for impact of major cyclone
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Eastern India braces for impact of major cyclone

BHUBANESWAR, India (AP) — State officials have reached out to the Indian military for help as they prepared for a massive cyclone expected to hit the country’s eastern seaboard over the weekend, reports said Friday.

Officials have cancelled holy day celebrations in coastal Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, with forecasters saying Cyclone Phailin will hit the region Saturday evening. The cyclone is currently sweeping through the Bay of Bengal.

“Our past experience indicates that despite the state government’s preparedness, impact of a very severe cyclonic storm requires support of the defense forces to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a letter to Defense Minister A.K. Antony, Indian media reports said. The military has already put helicopters on standby to help, the reports said.

The Associated Press was unable to immediately reach state officials Friday morning.

State officials have been stockpiling emergency food supplies, and setting up shelters for people expected to flee the heavy winds and rains. While state officials said they had already begun evacuations, an AP photographer saw little sign of evacuations in Orissa on Thursday.

Weather forecasters had been predicting wind speeds up to 185 kph (115 mph) at landfall, and waves up to 7 feet (2 meters), but warned that the storm has been gaining strength and those numbers are expected to rise.

The Bay of Bengal has been the scene of the some of the deadliest storms in recent history. A 1999 Orissa cyclone killed 10,000 people.