Nightly News | October 12, 2013
>>> witnessing a humanitarian disaster in the making as a massive cyclone as powerful and broad as hurricane katrina has come ashore on india 's densely populated coast. on the radar it's a swirling mass of bright colors. its footprint roughly the size of france is clearly visible from space. on the ground the storm is whipping wind gusts up to 150 miles per hour, swamping low lying villages and driving a towering storm surge well inland from the bay of bengal . we are already getting reports of the first deaths. nbc 's koo nbc 's kier simmons is monitoring the latest from the storm zone.
>> reporter: shivering, praying for protection. children among the 12 million facing this monster cyclone as it made landfall just hours ago. violent seas and winds gusting up to 150 miles per hour are battering the eastern coast of india , expected to bring with it a devastating storm surge up to 20 feet. thatched homes exposed and vulnerable in low lying ground. all relatives back home in the states can do is pray.
>> my hometown is also on the path.
>> reporter: roads flooded, trees downed. 800,000 residents were evacuating the area as the cyclone swept across the bay of bengal . people fleeing this force of nature .
>> the cloud pattern soeassociated with cyclone phailin about 750 miles.
>> reporter: residents raced to fill food bags before the storm.
>> we expect a massive storm surge . anything along the eastern indian coast where the core of phailin came ashore is gone tonight.
>> reporter: fishermen faced crashing waves. others were stranded at sea. a rescue operation halted by worsening conditions. 14 years ago in 1999 the same area was hit by a strong cyclone, killing 10,000 people.
>> this area of the tropics actually is capable of supporting some of the strongest storms on the planet based on the water temperature and the atmospheric conditions around it.
>> reporter: officials say india is better prepared. already a disaster operation has been launched. the people are hoping they are right. but it will be hours before we know the damage done and lives lost. kier simmons, nbc news.