Cyclone 'Phailin' today left a trail of destruction, hitting nearly 90 lakh people, damaging over 2.34 lakh houses and laying waste paddy crop worth about Rs 2,400 crore as Ganjam district bore the brunt of the very severe storm, the worst in 14 years to hit the Odisha coast.
Communication links have been vastly disrupted by the strong winds that went upto a speed of 220 kmph when it crossed the coast near Gopalpur last night and weakened towards becoming a depression as Odisha heaved a sigh of relief that major casualties have been avoided.
Authorities in the state evacuated nearly nine lakh people, the largest in recent history, ahead of the storm to cyclone shelters and public buildings like schools to avoid a repeat of the disastrous 1999 super cyclone that left 9,885 people dead.
Defence and paramilitary personnel were deployed to carry out relief and rehabilitation measures and restoring infrastructure badly affected by the storm.
Seven people were killed in Odisha before the cyclone made the landfall last night due to fall of trees while one person was killed in Andhra Pradesh in a house collapse in Srikakulam district.
The cyclone weakened this morning and was moving northwards and will settle into a deep depression by the evening. Under its impact, heavy rains lashed coastal districts of Puri, Balasore, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack and Sambalpur in inland Odisha, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the primary aim was to minimise loss of human lives and they have successfully managed to do so.
"Property to the tune of several crores has been damaged...Rehabilitation will now be done," he said.
Giving details of the devastation caused by the cyclone, Odisha Revenue Minister S N Patro said 14,514 villages in 12 districts have been affected, hitting a population of 80,53,620.
Over 2.34 lakh houses have been damaged and more than 8.73 lakh people have been evacuated.
Over five lakh hectares of standing crops have been destroyed by the gushing waters causing an estimated loss of Rs 2,400 crore, he said.
Extensive damage has also been caused to 'kutcha' houses besides partial disruption of power, communication lines and rail and road traffic in various parts of Odisha, particularly in Ganjam district, which faced the storm's onslaught.
Thousands of trees and poles were uprooted in Bhubaneshwar and several buildings have got weakened in Parampur town, above 20 kms from Gopalpur, Patro said.
"Now the challenge is before the administration is rehabilitation," he said.
In Andhra Pradesh, a 60-year-old man died in Bulivadu village of Srikakulam district following heavy downpour unleashed by the severe storm. A 27-year-old fisherman died in his sleep in the early hours today in a relief camp at Kaviti, a state disaster management official said.
The IMD said in New Delhi that Phailin has weakened into a cyclonic storm with wind speed between 60 and 70 kmph. It is currently close to Jharsuguda in north Odisha.
Earlier, IMD Director General L S Rathore had said that the wind speed of the cyclone is now 100 to 110 kmph.
A flood warning has been issued in Bihar as widespread rains are expected in its wake.
In Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, relief operations have been launched in full swing as heavy rains coupled with strong winds continue to lash most parts of the coastal areas.
Srikakulam Collector Saurabh Gaur said 39 villages in the cyclone-affected areas are surrounded by water.
Kolkata Port Trust Chairman RPS Kahlon told PTI that cargo ship, MV Bingo is believed to have sunk in the rough seas caused by Phailin with its crew on a lifeboat last sighted east of Sagar in West Bengal.
"The Panama-registered cargo ship MV Bingo is feared sunk as the crew was sighted on a lifeboat yesterday east of Sagar, 25km from the coast," he said.
The bulk cargo carrier carrying 8,000 tonnes of iron ore left for China from Sagar anchorage on October 11.It may possibly have had tried to sail back to port following damage sustained on the rough seas, he said.
Kahlon said a Dornier aircraft and hovercraft belonging to Coast Guard were searching for the ship which sailed with 19 Chinese and one Indonesian crew member on board.