Sri Lanka has evacuated 75,000 people from homes on the east coast, where tropical cyclone Burevi, packing winds of 80-90 kph (50-56 mph) is expected to hit the island nation late on Wednesday.
The cyclone is likely to damage coastal buildings and power lines, and unleash flash floods, the island’s disaster management centre said, advising those living near its path to stay indoors.
Those evacuated from the Trincomalee district, expected to be hit the hardest, have been moved into 237 relief centres until the cyclone passes, disaster officials said.
“By this evening or night, the cyclone will hit land,” said Athula Karunanayake, the chief of the meteorology department.
“Some areas will get more than 200 mm (eight inches) of rain.”
By Thursday, the cyclone’s path will carry it northwest towards the Arabian Sea, he said, however.
Authorities in the Northern Province, home to more than a million people, will keep schools shut until at least Friday.
Burevi is projected to move into southern India by early on Friday, Indian weather officials have said, but is expected to cause less damage there.
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said late on Tuesday it had deployed 26 teams across the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Ready for cyclone,” tweeted the NDRF director-general on Wednesday.
The Indian Meteorological Department issued a red alert in several areas across both states and suspended fishing activity in some areas until Friday.
Last Thursday, a more powerful cyclone skirted northern Sri Lanka but hit Tamil Nadu with full force, uprooting trees and delivering 300 mm (12 inches) of rain in some areas.
But more accurate forecasting and the timely evacuation of several hundred thousand people were credited with keeping the number of people reported killed to three, a fraction of the death tolls in previous years.
Seven people were killed and some 20,000 lost their homes three years ago in Sri Lanka’s northeast following a similar cyclone during the monsoon season.
Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh depend on the monsoon for power generation as well as irrigation, but excessive downpours and storms cause casualties and destroy property almost every year.
Sri Lanka: Tens of thousands evacuated as Cyclone Burevi nears Wire Services/ Al Jazeera.