NEW DELHI -- Authorities in India and Bangladesh evacuated hundreds of thousands of people Tuesday as a powerful cyclone over the Bay of Bengal moved toward the countries' coastal areas.
Cyclone Amphan is forecast to make landfall between West Bengal and Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon.
Meteorologists are warning of large-scale damage from strong winds, tidal waves, heavy rains and flooding, including in the densely populated city of Kolkata.
On landfall, the "very severe" cyclone could reach speeds of between 155 and 160 kilometers per hour (96 to 99 miles per hour) with gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph), according to Indian Meteorological Department chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra.
In Bangladesh, 12,000 centers had been opened to shelter 2.2 million people as Amphan was only about 410 miles away from the southern Payra maritime port, State Minister for Disaster Management Enamur Rahman said.
The large numbers of shelters was to ensure sufficient distance between people in light of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. School and government buildings would also be used to temporarily accommodate the evacuees.
In India's West Bengal, around 300,000 people were evacuated to relief shelters from three coastal districts, state chief minister Mamata Banerjee said adding authorities were on high alert and had made all necessary precautionary arrangements.
In Odisha, more than 30,000 people were evacuated, according to the state's disaster control room. Up to 100,000 could be moved by Wednesday morning.
With speeds of up to 240 kph (150 mph), Amphan was classed as a super cyclone, only the second to form in the region in two decades, before it started losing intensity Tuesday, the IMD said.
Low-lying coastal areas and offshore islands may experience water surge of up to 10 feet above the normal tide.