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Massive Cyclone Nears India's East Coast

Nearly a half-million people have been evacuated in India as one of the most powerful storms on record bears down on the country's east coast.

Weather forecasters say Cyclone Phailin is coming ashore late Saturday.

Officials say the storm, with 220 kilometer-per-hour winds, has already contributed to at least three deaths.

Its high winds have uprooted trees, downed power lines and damaged coastal homes.

The massive storm filled most of the Bay of Bengal as it moved toward land.

Heavy rains have been pounding coastal villages. The skies were described as almost black at midmorning in Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa state, about 100 kilometers from the coast.

On Friday, the United Nations and European Union's Global Disaster Alert System warned that 6.5 million people are likely to face torrential rains and damaging winds.

Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common this time of year, frequently wreaking havoc and causing mass deaths in coastal India and Bangladesh. A cyclone hit Orissa state in 1999, killing at least 10,000 people.

Some weather predictors have likened Phailin's size and intensity to Hurricane Katrina, which tore through the U.S. Gulf Coast and New Orleans in 2005, killing more than 1,000 people.