As cyclone Phailin approaches the interiors of India in its wholly destructive form, following its dramatic landfall on the coasts of Andhra Pradesh, we are reminded of the terrifying cyclone of 1999, known as Paradwip cyclone, that wrecked havoc not too far, about 100 mile, from where Phailin currently hovers.
In fact, if history is anything to go by, the Bay of Bengal is perhaps the most disaster prone area. Meteorology genius Jeff Masters writes on his WunderBlog, “There is good reason to be concerned when a major tropical cyclone forms in the Bay of Bengal. Twenty-six of the thirty-five deadliest tropical cyclones in world history have been Bay of Bengal storms. During the past two centuries, 42% of Earth's tropical cyclone-associated deaths have occurred in Bangladesh, and 27% have occurred in India.”
Weather historian Christopher C Burt lists out the most deadliest cyclones of Bay of Bengal:
And the following image shows the frequency and pattern of cyclones that hit India:
And here's another graphic detailing the worst cyclones in the recorded history of the entire world:
This information, put in context with the questionable competence of disaster management systems in India, gives some perspective to how the situation with Cyclone Phalin may turn out to be.
However, it's not all bad news. Weather experts, including Masters, suggest that despite being one of the strongest superstorm, Phailin might not cause as much damage as Paradwip, for several reason.
Masters explains, “The region of the coast where Phailin is expected to hit is not as low-lying, though, which should keep the death toll due to storm surge much lower compared to the 1999 Odisha Cyclone, where more than 70% of the deaths occurred due to the storm surge.”
He also points out how deforestation of the mangroves could have added to the increased damages in 1999. He quotes Das and Vincent (2009) who concluded, "villages with wider mangroves between them and the coast experienced significantly fewer deaths than ones with narrower or no mangroves."
Another meteorologist, Eric Holthaus, also pointed out that considering the cyclone made landfall during time of low tide there will be minimal coastal flooding impact.