Over two million people in India and Bangladesh have been evacuated as Cyclone Bulbul hits the Bay of Bengal.
The storm made landfall at midnight local time on Saturday, near the Sagar Island in Indian West Bengal, and is expected to unleash surges as high as 7ft (2m).
Two people have already been killed in Bangladesh by the cyclone, local media report. Services at many seaports as well as airports in the region were also suspended – including at the busy Kolkata airport.
Bangladesh’s two major ports – Mongla and Chittagong – were closed while flights into Chittagong airport were halted. The closure of transport hubs has left thousands of people stranded on islands off the coast, including St Martin’s Island in Bangladesh.
AFP agency quoted Shah Kamal, Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary, as saying that the evacuated residents had been moved to more than 5,500 cyclone shelters. Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister for the Indian state of West Bengal, tweeted before the cyclone made landfall urging people to stay calm.
“Please do not panic,” she wrote. “Kindly remain calm and co-operate with the administration in its rescue and relief efforts. Be alert, take care and stay safe.”
Forecasters expect the storm to move north and weaken gradually.