Five killed, 12m affected as Cyclone Phailin hits India
13 October, 2013
ICHAPURAM/BHUBANESWAR: A fierce cyclone tore into India's east coast on Saturday night, killing at least five people and forcing about half a million into overcrowded shelters as the storm threatened to cut a swathe of devastation through farmland and fishing hamlets.
Cyclone Phailin was expected to remain a "very severe cyclonic storm" packing winds of up to 210 kph into the early hours of Sunday before steadily weakening as it moves inland in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Phailin's rain and wind could affect 12 million people, weather and disaster management officials said. Some forecasts said the storm lost some of its strength before reaching the coast, but it remained India's strongest since a typhoon killed 10,000 people in the same region 14 years ago.
Heavy rain lashed fishing villages and wind uprooted trees. Satellite images showed a vast spiral shaped storm that filled most of the Bay of Bengal. A US Navy forecast said Phailin's gusts could reach 296 kph.
Jagdesh Dasari, a local leader in the fishing village of Mogadhalupadu near where the storm struck, said police had to order villagers to leave mud and thatch huts for a school building as night fell. Similar hold-outs were reported along the poor coast, where people were afraid of losing belongings.
"Many people refused to move, had to be convinced, and at times the police had to forcefully move them to safe places," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.
In the first reported deaths, four people were killed by falling trees, while another died when the walls of her mud house collapsed. Electricity went out in several towns, including Orissa 's capital Bhubaneswar.
"We are fortunate that we are here... we saved our lives," said Narayan Haldar, huddled with 1,300 people in an Orissa fishing village. He complained the government had not provided food. Some shelters were in dilapidated condition and TV images showed crowds standing in the rain outside one packed building.
Large waves pounded beaches and villagers told a television station that surging sea levels has pushed water several hundred feet inland in low-lying areas.