Nearly eleven hours after hitting the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh with a wind speed of about 200 kilometers per hour, Cyclone Phailin is reported to have calmed down on Sunday morning.
Local media is reporting damage to property and to substantial flooding in coastal districts of Odisha and on National Highway Five. Several teams of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy are on standby across the region to begin massive relief and rescue operations.
Most areas hit by Cyclone Phailin are without power, as the lines are down. A trail of destruction along the coastline has become visible. News channels are showing visuals of uprooted trees, overturned cars, and damaged buildings, but the extent of the damage is yet to be fully assessed.
Rescue operations are said to have begun at the local level across coastal Odisha and north Andhra Pradesh. There are no reports of casualties so far and roads are being opened up for traffic. Flight operations to Bhubaneswar are also set to resume today, while the Indian Railways is preparing a contingency plan to normalise its operations as early as possible.
Over 1.2 crore people are said to have been directly affected by Cyclone Phailin. According to Special Relief Commissioner P.K. Mohapatra, 7, 24, 000 people have been evacuated till now.
According to local media reports, the wind speed has reduced in Bhubaneswar, but is still blowing strong in Paradip and other places which are closer to the eye of the storm. Cyclone Phailin hit land with a wind speed of around 200 kilometers per hour and a 3.5 meter high storm surge. Unconfirmed reports say that seven people may have lost their lives in Odisha.
As per the IMD, Cyclone Phailin will result in heavy rains over Odisha and north coastal Andhra Pradesh over the next 48 hours.
The landfall took place at around 9.15 p.m. on Saturday night and the impact of the cyclone lasted for over seven hours before it moved in a north-northwesterly direction.
MET Department Director General L.S. Rathore said Cyclone Phailin said that the cyclone is still at Level Six, but not in the severe category.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been briefed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth about the impact of Cyclone Phailin and his office is continuously monitoring the situation arising out of it.
Dr. Singh has directed that all possible assistance should be extended to the two state governments concerned in ensuring the safety and security of the people and in relief and rescue operations.
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Saturday that at least eight districts of Odisha had faced the brunt of the cyclone, while three districts of Andhra Pradesh namely Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam were affected.
At least 600 buildings have been identified as cyclone shelters, and people are being evacuated from areas near the coast, including Ganjam, Puri, Khordha and Jagatsinghapur Districts in Odisha.
About 26 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been deployed in Odisha, along with three on standby. In Andhra Pradesh, there are 15 teams of the NDRF, with additional two on standby.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth said that an additional 30 to 25 teams can be deployed at short notice, and added that control rooms have been set up within every ministry, which will work around the clock till the cyclone ends.
The Army has deployed an engineering task force, six composite relief units, four columns in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The Air Force, on its part, has put in place frontline C-17 Globemasters, C-130 J Super Hercules and IL-76 transport planes to Odisha to carry out relief operations. The Indian Air Force can move into the affected areas by Sunday afternoon to speed up the relief operations. Strong winds blowing currently do not permit air operations.
The Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy has assumed the highest degree of readiness to render all necessary humanitarian assistance.
Two Indian Naval ships, including the Landing Platform Dock INS Jalashwa are standing by to proceed with dispatch to the most affected areas of Odisha in the cyclone's aftermath.
INS Jalashwa, the second largest combatant of the Indian Navy, is ideally equipped to undertake Humanitarian Aid Distress Relief (HADR), evacuation, logistic support and hospital ship operations.
Both the ships are poised with additional divers, doctors, inflatable rubber boats, integral helicopters and relief material that include food, tentage, clothes, medicines, blankets etc, in quantities sufficient to sustain over 5000 personnel for three days.
Six advance diving teams with inflatable boats, rescue material and satellite communication have left for Odisha by road and will operate from INS Chilka, 50 km north of Gopalapatnam, where the cyclone is expected to make landfall.
These personnel will be assisted by four platoons from the local naval station and doctors from INHS Nivarini in their rescue and relief efforts.
The Eastern Naval Command is monitoring the developments closely and is in constant communication with the state administration to augment rescue and relief operations.
Six helicopters are standing by at the Naval Air Station INS Dega to undertake reconnaissance, rescue, casualty evacuation and air drop of relief material to the stranded.
Additionally, the telecom department has also prepared itself to ensure that communication links are stable during the expected disaster.
The Indian Railways had cancelled 99 trains and also short terminated and diverted a number of trains in view of Cyclone Phailin on Saturday.
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has given instructions to his men to take care of the passengers and to ensure safety and minimum inconvenience to the people.