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Cyclone Phailin expected to hit Bay of Bengal coast on Saturday, US Met says its Category 5

Bhubaneswar, Oct 11 (): The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), a Hawaii-based forecasting outpost of the US Navy has put the strength of Cyclone Phailin as that of a Category 5 Hurricane. Whereas, Phailin is categorised as a Category 4 cyclonic storm on a scale of 1 to 5 by the London-based storm tracking service Tropical Storm Risk.

However, the India Meteorological Department, IMD has categorised Phailin a notch below and termed it as a very severe cyclonic storm. IMD had earlier expected the wind speed of Phailin to be limited to 185 kmph, but has now scaled up the intensity to a maximum speed of 205-215 kmph.

A hurricane is classified as Category 5 when it gains a speed of over 120 knots/220 kmph. As per the latest data released by JTWC, Phailin may clock 140 knots in wind speed with gusts reaching 170 knots.

The ‘super cyclone’ Phailin is expected to hit the Bay of Bengal coast between Srikakulam and Gopalpur in Odisha by tomorrow evening (October 12) but gusts are expected from the morning itself. So, as many as 64,000 people in the north coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are being evacuated to safer places.

Army, Navy and National Disaster Response Force personnel have already been placed in vulnerable coastal districts while Inspector General of Police (north-coastal zone) Ch Dwaraka Tirumala Rao has been asked to organise with other departments to ensure effective communications in case of emergency.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus said, “A worst case scenario would have Phailin tracking slightly eastward of its current forecasted track, toward Kolkata and the Ganges Delta of Bangladesh, which is home to tens of millions of people living just a few meters above sea level.”

The super-cyclone in 1999 that killed around 10,000 people in Odisha was a Category 5 storm. Some forecasters had compared the size and intensity of the cyclone to that of hurricane Katrina, which devastated the U.S. Gulf coast and New Orleans in 2005.