A huge cyclone that has forced as many as 500,000 people to flee their homes has made landfall in eastern India.Winds were measured at 200 km/h (125mph) as Cyclone Phailin hit the coast near Gopalpur, Orissa state.
Authorities had predicted a storm surge of at least 3m (10ft) that was expected to cause extensive damage. Officials say they are better prepared than in 1999 when a cyclone killed thousands of people in Orissa.
Cyclone Phailin has been classed as "very severe", and the head of India's Meteorological Office, LS Rathore, said it would remain in that category for six hours before losing strength. The eye of the storm was moving at 10-15 km/h (6-9mph), he said. Heavy rain and high winds lashed Gopalpur as the cyclone made landfall.
The storm ripped up trees and road signs, and cut power supplies in some areas. Five deaths were linked to the cyclone by Indian media. Reporter, Andrew North, spoke of a scene of apocalyptic devastation in Brahmapur, just inland from where the cyclone reached the coast.
Store signs and other debris were being pitched high in the air by storm gusts and elaborate decorations for a major Hindu festival were strewn over the main road. Officials had earlier said that no-one would be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses along the coast of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states, but some residents said they wanted to stay put.
"Many people who refused to move had to be convinced and at times the police had to forcefully move them to safe places," said Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. The army is on standby for emergency and relief operations. Helicopters and food packages were ready to be dropped in the storm-affected areas.
Hours before the cyclone made landfall it was generating winds of 240 km/h (150mph) over the Bay of Bengal. Cyclone Phailin is described as the biggest storm in the region for 14 years.
Most shops are shuttered, with hundreds of residents now evacuated. Many streets are already flooded, and this is only the beginning as further extreme force winds and heavy rain is expected. Windows in many commercial establishments and hotels have been blown in.. It looks set to be a terrifying night, as the cyclone sweeps through Gopalpur and a vast swathe of the Indian coastline.