Take one of the biggest cyclones that India has ever seen, add a scene of violent civic unrest, and the result is a potentially catastrophic scenario for the southeastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh this weekend.
As Quartz’s Eric Holthaus has reported, Phailin (Thai for “sapphire”) has the potential to become the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, and the storm itself is already about half the size of India as it forms in the Bay of Bengal. Phailin is expected to make landfall on Saturday in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh—and the latter happens to be experiencing some severe non-weather problems of its own.
The Indian government is proposing carving a new state out of Andhra Pradesh, which spurred violent protests this week. A strike by 80,000 state electrical workers led to blackouts and the closure of government offices, schools, businesses and transport links, as the The New York Times reported Oct. 10. Police have established a curfew and have orders to shoot violators on sight.
Faced with the prospect of the massive storm, the electrical workers decided to stand down and call off the strike temporarily, but tensions are still presumably high.
The adjacent state of Odisha has its own security problems in the form of a long-running Maoist insurgency. Odisha was also the place where India’s last major deadly storm made landfall, in 1999, killing 15,000 people and causing billions of dollars worth of damage.