Sri Lanka's top meteorology official has apologized for naming a deadly cyclone after a king who built massive irrigation tanks well over a millennium ago and was venerated as a god.

Political leaders and a farmers' group have protested the naming of a cyclone after King Mahasen, who ruled Sri Lanka in the 4th century and built 16 large reservoirs. Cyclone Mahasen killed 18 people two weeks ago and forced 1 million others to evacuate in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

S.H. Kariyawasam, director general of the meteorology department, said Tuesday that he apologizes "if any insult was caused to King Mahasen or the country's proud history."