Phailin, a very severe cyclonic storm, said to be the second strongest after the disastrous super-cyclone of 1999, on Saturday struck the Odisha coast, bringing in its wake torrential rains and wind speeds of over 200 kmph in the state and in the neighbouring north coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Darkness enveloped wide swathes of the coastal districts of Odisha, especially Ganjam, whose Gopalpur-on-sea was the entry point for the storm uprooting trees and electric poles. People were forced to remain indoors by the pounding rains and vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall were also widespread in the districts of Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Bhadrak and Kendrapara in coastal region besides state capital Bhubaneshwar.
However, the extent of damage wreaked by the cyclone was not immediately available. Three people were killed in Odisha in the heavy rains ahead of the storm.
The cyclone made its landfall "very close to Gopalpur town" around 9 pm and has just started crossing the coast in Odisha, IMD Director General LS Rathore told reporters in New Delhi just a little later.
"Still there is scope the speed to go up as the cyclone will remain very severe for six hours. Post landfall, there will be no large change in the intensity," he said, adding that for another 12 to 24 hours, there will be moderate rains in large parts of east India.
He denied that Phailin was a super cyclone.