Cyclonic storm Phailin slammed Gopalpur in Odisha at 9.15 pm on Saturday, triggering heavy rains and strong winds with speed reaching up to 200 km an hour. More than 5 lakh people were shifted to safety in coastal Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Strong winds uprooted trees, electricity and communication poles and thatched roofs in the two states.
There were seven deaths, some damage to old buildings and large-scale disruption of power and communication lines. But Phailin was not as merciless as was widely feared.
It is likely to stay for six hours before moving ahead.
Moments after the cyclone hit the town, shards of glass and asbestos strips could be seen whipping through the air “like killer projectiles”.
At a 9 pm briefing, India Meteorology Department (IMD) Director-General L.S. Rathore said Phailin has just started to cross the coast and there will be a slight increase in the wind speed.
Rathore refuted allegations of warnings going off the mark. “We had predicted a wind speed of around 210-220 kmph and it’s around 200 kmph. It’s not a super cyclone.
“The cyclone will remain very severe for the next six hours and the intensity will reduce thereafter.
However, heavy rainfall will continue in most parts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh during the next 48 hours,” Rathore said.
The next IMD bulletin will be given at 11 am today.
“We predicted a Level 6 cyclone, it is still at Level 6,” he said.
At least 600 buildings have been identified as shelters and people are being evacuated from areas near the coast, including Ganjam, Puri, Khordha and Jagatsinghapur districts in Odisha.
But only when Phailin’s severity comes down – after 12 hours from the time of landfall – will rescuers from the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) venture out from their safe shelters.
“NDRF teams will not expose themselves at least for the first six hours as they would have no chance of survival in such high velocity gusts. They would start operations only once the cyclone abates its severity,” NDRF chief Krishna Chowdhary said.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) vice chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said: “We have tried to do our best by warning well in advance and shifting 4.5 lakh people from Odisha and 1 lakh people from Andhra Pradesh... Now it is just wait and watch. Rescue work will start only after the cyclone subsides,” said Reddy.—With agencies