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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 22:33 GMT

World: South Asia

Bengal and Orissa brace for cyclone

Indian authorities in Orissa and West Bengal have began evacuating thousands of people from coastal areas in eastern India as a cyclone with winds up to 220 kmh (140 mph) heads for land.

The storm is expected to hit early on Friday.

An alert has been sounded in at least 10 districts in Orissa state, where more than 100 people were killed in another cyclone 10 days ago.

[ image: Soldiers are standing by to offer help]
Soldiers are standing by to offer help
"A serious cyclonic storm is centred ... southeast of Paradip and is moving in the northwesterly direction," said a Meteorological Department official in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of India's eastern state of Orissa.

The commissioner in charge of civil relief, Mayadhar Panigrahi said in an interview with the BBC that more than 30,000 people had to be evacuated on Thursday evening.

Nearly 1m people inhabit the area likely to be hit the storm near Paradip port, 150km (100 miles) north of Bhubaneswar, the Orissa state capital.

United News of India reported that the West Bengal state government had decided to evacuate nearly 200,000 people from islands in the Bay of Bengal.

Fishermen have been advised to stay close to the shore.

India's neighbour Bangladesh placed 33,000 volunteers on alert on Thursday and began evacuating hundreds of people to concrete shelters in southeastern Khulna and Barguna coastal districts.

Bangladeshi weather officials said the storm could hit the country's main Chittagong port and Cox's Bazar resort district.

The storm is expected to hit the Sundarbans forest in the middle of Friday.

[ image: In Bengal, the tigers are at risk]
In Bengal, the tigers are at risk
The Sundarbans is home to 362 famous Royal Bengal tigers.

Twenty tigers were killed by a cyclone which hit the world's largest mangrove forest in November 1988.

The coast, which is often buffeted by cyclones, is dotted with more than 1,200 multi-storied concrete storm shelters.

Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation, is lashed by cyclones and floods every year.

A devastating cyclone in 1991 claimed 139,000 lives.

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