India’s precautionary Massive evacuation efforts helped to limit the number of casualties by “Cyclone Phailin” which hit East coastal areas in the States of Odisa and Andra Pradesh in India.
At 140 mph wind speed, the Cyclone Phailin made landfall the equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. The strongest hurricane is a Category 5, which comes with winds greater than 155 mph.
Hurricanes are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean.
India evacuated nearly a million people including more than 870,000 in Orissa and more than 100,000 in neighboring Andhra Pradesh before the storm to avoid a repeat of what happened in 1999, when a cyclone killed 10,000 people.
“We have taken a zero-casualty approach,” said Kamal Lochan Mishra, the Odisha state disaster manager. “If people do not move, force will be used to evacuate them.”
Phailin has brought nearly 8 inches of rain to Odisha’s capital of Bhubaneswar, about 30 miles from the coast. The city’s average rainfall for October is 6.5 inches.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of extensive damage to houses made of flimsy materials like mud and bamboo, as well as damage to old buildings.
Power and communication lines got disrupted. Extensive flooding also affected rail and road traffic, and crops are likely to suffer major damage.
In advance of Phailin, military units and National Disaster Response Force personnel were deployed to coastal areas with relief supplies and medical aid.
All flights to Odisha have been canceled and train services in the state are also disrupted.
The storm — which made landfall Saturday in the town of Gopalpur — has impacted nearly 9 million people and destroyed crops worth about $400 million
The storm damaged nearly 250,000 houses in Ganjam, one of the worst-affected districts.
“We have been successful in minimizing the loss of life,” Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnail told reporters. “Now rebuilding is a very big challenge for us as property worth tens of millions of rupees has been destroyed.”
Crew members of the MV Bingo, a China-bound cargo ship carrying iron ore which lost contact with the ground staff after Cyclone Phailin struck coastal Odisha on Saturday evening, have been located. All 20 crew members reported to be safe.
At least seven deaths were confirmed, said Prabhat Mohapatra, a special relief commissioner in Odisha state, where the cyclone landed.
As a precautionary measure, authorities cut the electricity in the affected districts.
India Meteorological Department (IMD) stood vindicated over its predictions for Cyclone Phailin which were consistently below those from foreign meteorologists who foresaw higher wind speeds and greater damage.
“They have been issuing over-warnings, we have been contradicting them,” L.S. Rathore, the director general of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), told a press conference in New Delhi. “As a scientist there is always a difference of opinion,” he added.
Foreign groups such as the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), Britain’s Met Office and a host of private forecasters such as London-based Tropical Storm Risk assessed Phailin as a “super cyclone”.
Helplines for Phailin:
Phailin Emergency Toll Free Numbers – 180042500002 and 1070
Andhra Pradesh helpline numbers – 040-23456005/23451043
DoT launches new helpline numbers for Phailin. 1948 (Orissa), 1949 (Andhra Pradesh)
Google person Finder for Phailin is available at http://google.org/personfinder/2013-phailin