'Super cyclone' moving at 167mph hits the east coast of India: More than 600,000 people evacuated
- 125mph winds have hit east coast states Orissa and Andhra Pradesh
- Around 600,000 have been evacuated from the area, state officials say
- Satellite images from this morning show cyclone filling almost the entire Bay of Bengal area - an area the size of France
- Winds of up to 167mph predicted by Meteorologial Department
- A deadly super-cyclone in 1999 killed more than 10,000 people in the area
By Lizzie Edmonds
Published: 11:31 GMT, 12 October 2013 | Updated: 01:24 GMT, 13 October 2013
A powerful super-cyclone is battering the east coast of India after making land earlier yesterday afternoon with more than 600,000 people already evacuated from their homes.
Categorised as 'very severe' by weather forecasters, Cyclone Phailin, is expected to hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states the hardest.
The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii showed maximum sustained winds of about 138mph, with gusts up to 167mph.
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Battering: The powerful cyclone Phailin has hit the east coast of India bringing destructive winds and heavy rains
A rickshaw man pedals through heavy rain in Berhampur
A woman walks past a pig during heavy rain in the state of Orissa, which is expected to endure some of the worst damage
The storm is expected to affect 12 million people, most of them in the densely populated states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh
Villagers enjoy a welcome meal at a temporary cyclone shelter in Orissa
A few hours before it hit land, the eye of the storm collapsed, spreading the hurricane force winds out over a larger area and giving it a 'bigger damage footprint' .
U.S meterologist Jeff Masters, said: 'It's probably a bad thing it was doing this when it made landfall. Much of the housing in India is unable to withstand even a much weaker hurricane.
'This is a remarkably strong storm. It's going to carry hurricane-force winds inland for about 12 hours, which is quite unusual.'
Hurricanes typically lose much of their force when they hit land, where there is less heat-trapping moisture feeding energy into the storm.
As the cyclone swept across the Bay of Bengal toward the Indian coast, satellite images showed its spinning tails covering an area larger than France.
Images appeared to show the storm making landfall early Saturday night near Gopalpur.
A boy struggles to hold on to his umbrella as he moves a herd of cows along a road in Andhra Pradesh
Deluge: People struggle through heavy rain in the Ganjam district of Orissa
Take shelter: People run for cover following a cyclone warning at Gopalpur beach in Orissa, India
A family takes refuge from the fierce winds and heavy rain in a temporary cyclone shelter in Orissa
A mother feeds her youngster with a handful of rice at a shelter in Orissa. Powerful winds have uprooted trees and brought down power lines
Waves slam against the shore as storms from Cyclone Phailin hit Kailasagiri in Visakhapatnam
With some of the world's warmest waters, the Indian Ocean is considered a cyclone hot spot, and some of the deadliest storms in recent history have come through the Bay of Bengal, including a 1999 cyclone that also hit Orissa and killed 10,000 people.
Officials said early reports of deaths from Phailin won't become clear until after daybreak Sunday.
In Behrampur, a town about 10 kilometers (7 miles) inland from where the eye of the storm hit, the sky blackened quickly around the time of landfall, with heavy winds and rains pelting the empty streets.
Window panes shook and shattered against the wind. Outside, objects could be heard smashing into walls.
'My parents have been calling me regularly ... they are worried,' said Hemant Pati, 27, who was holed up in a Behrampur hotel with 15 other people from the coastal town hit first by the storm.
The hotel manager said he would bar the doors against anyone trying to enter, saying there would be food, water and electricity from generators only for guests of the Hotel Jyoti Residency. 'Nobody can come inside, and nobody can go out,' Shaik Nisaruddin said.
Stranded tourists who had come for Orissa's beaches and temples instead roamed the hallways of boarded-up hotels.
'It seemed strange, because it was a beautiful sunny day yesterday,' said Doris Lang of Honolulu, who was with a friend in the seaside temple town of Puri when news of the cyclone's approach reached them.
Route: The cyclone has made its way from the sea and will continue well into the mainland, pictured
A wedding hall is used as a temporary shelter for people fleeing the impact of Cyclone Phailin, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa
Chickens cross a road in a deserted Donkuru coastal village in Srikakulam district
A fisherman stands on the beach in Appughar village near Kailasagiri in Visakhapatnam
A rickshaw puller pedals through heavy rainfall in Ganjam district, Orissa
The state's top official, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, appealed for calm.
'I request everyone to not panic. Please assist the government. Everyone from the village to the state headquarters have been put on alert,' he told reporters.
Surya Narayan Patro, the state's top disaster management official, had said that 'no one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas' when the storm hits.
By Saturday afternoon, the sea had already pushed inland as much as 40 meters (130 feet) along parts of the coastline.
Officials in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have been stockpiling emergency food supplies and setting up shelters. The Indian military has put some of its forces on alert, and has trucks, transport planes and helicopters at the ready for relief operations.
The evacuated people have been taken to specially-built cyclone camps in the two states.
There are more than 500 such shelters that have been set up – each cyclone shelter can accommodate at least 1,500 people. Agencies swung into action a day before the anticipated landfall that eventually happened at around 9 pm on Saturday.
The storm is expected to cause large-scale power and communications outages and shut down road and rail links, officials said. It's also expected to cause extensive damage to crops.
Storm: Cyclone Phailin has made land on India's east coast with winds being measured at up to 167mph
Men wearing motorcycle helmets walk along the shore in Orissa. The storm made landfall near the coastal town of Gopalpur
Evacuation: A woman carries her baby as she moves to a safer place with others members of the Donkuru village in the state of Andhra Pradesh
Waves crash on the Bengal coast in Vishakhapatnam. Categorised as 'very severe' by weather forecasters, Cyclone Phailin, is expected to hit Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states the hardest
The Meteorological Department predicted winds up to 136mph, with initial reports suggesting 125mph have already hit the coast
A shepherd holds on to his umbrella as he stands with his flock in Andhra Pradesh. The cyclone threatens to cut a wide swathe of devastation through farmland and fishing hamlets
In the port city of Paradip - which was hammered in the 1999 cyclone, also in October - at least seven ships were moved out to sea to ride out the storm, with other boats shifted to safer parts of the harbor, officials said.
U.S. forecasters had repeatedly warned that Phailin would be immense.
'If it's not a record, it's really, really close,' University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told The Associated Press. 'You really don't get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever.'
To compare it to killer U.S. storms, McNoldy said Phailin is nearly the size of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people in 2005 and caused devastating flooding in New Orleans, but also has the wind power of 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which packed 265 kph (165 mph) winds at landfall in Miami.
A man wraps himself in a plastic sheet as he heads for safety in Donkuru village in the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh
Safe haven: Villagers eat food at a temporary cyclone shelter in the of district Ganjam, Orissa
The storm, packing winds around 125mph has barreled in from the Bay of Bengal to make landfall near the coastal town of Gopalpur
Escape: Scores of evacuated villagers aboard a truck at a relief camp near Berhampur
Downpour: Villagers transported on a pick up truck cover themselves from heavy rainfall in Srikakulam district
Enormous: A satellite from the US Naval Research Laboratory shows Cyclone Phailin over the Bay of Bengal
Force: A villager braves strong winds and rain to walk to a shelter on higher ground
Refuge: Residents look out from a cyclone shelter surrounded by water in Badabandha village, Gopalpur
India experiences two cyclone seasons a year, one in May before the annual monsoon rains and another beginning in October.
'Keep in mind, India's second cyclone season is only just beginning,' said Masters, the American meteorologist. 'We could see another big storm in October or November.'
Aid agencies are gearing up to help the people in coastal town as the country braces itself for the biggest cyclone in 14 years.
By Friday evening, some 600,000 people had been moved to higher ground or shelters in Orissa, said Surya Narayan Patro - the state's top disaster management official.
About 12 hours before Cyclone Phailin's expected landfall, meteorologists held out hope that it might hit while in a temporary weakened state.
Crash: A wave hits the coast of Andhra Pradesh state, while groups of villagers hurry to evacuate a shipyard
Drenched: Villagers hold umbrellas as they walk towards the safety of a cyclone shelter in Chatrapur
Abandoned: The empty coastal village of Donkuru, Srikakulam following evacuation
Chaos: Waves crash onto the shore in Visakhapatnam district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
Effort: Officials from the Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services lift a search and rescue boat
The storm has been powerful for nearly 36 hours and those winds have built up tremendous amount of surge, Maue said.
Black skies above Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa state - which is expected to bear the brunt of the cyclone - continued 60 miles out to sea this morning.
Roaring winds made palm trees sway wildly, while to the south of the state seawater was already pushing inland.
Officials canceled holy day celebrations and stockpiled emergency supplies in coastal Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states.
Checks: Rescuers check equipment before heading to help those affected
Assistance: Government officials stand near a stack of relief goods ready to be distributed
Heavy rains: An Indian cycle rickshaw driver makes his way through rain in Berhampur city
Course: A map locating the cyclone's projected path
Government workers and volunteers were putting together hundreds of thousands of food packages to be distributed at relief camps.
The state's top official, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, appealed for people to cooperate with officials as they order people to leave their homes.
'I request everyone to not panic. Please assist the government. Everyone from the village to the state headquarters have been put on alert,' he told reporters.
Children's charity World Vision said its teams on the ground were already seeing signs of the storm.
Dharmendra Naik, manager of its programmes in Jagathsinghpur district, said: 'Our staff along the coast have been seeing rain falling continuously and winds pick up. People have been trying to stock up on essentials and that has caused the price of many items to be driven higher.'
Kunal Shah, the head of the charity's emergency response in India, said: 'In a storm of this magnitude there is the potential for widespread damage to crops and livestock in the low-lying coastal areas and houses completely wiped away. So while we are praying this storm loses intensity, we're also preparing.'
Save the Children said it was on the ground stockpiling emergency supplies including food, health and hygiene kits and tarpaulin sheets.
Plan International is also in contact with partners in India, ready to intervene to help families affected.
Prepared: Villagers walk cattle through the streets during a heavy cyclonic wind in Ganja village, Gopalpur
In Paradip, the Orissa port city hammered in a 1999 cyclone, at least seven ships were put to sea to ride out the storm, with other boats shifted to safer parts of the harbor, officials said.
U.S. forecasters repeatedly warned that the storm would be immense.
'If it's not a record it's really, really close,' University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said.
'You really don't get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever. This is the top of the barrel'.
To compare it to killer U.S. storms, McNoldy said cyclone Phailin is nearly the size of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people in 2005 and caused devastating flooding in New Orleans.
He said it also has the wind power of 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which packed 165 mph winds at landfall in Miami.
Together: People take shelter at a wedding hall after leaving their houses in the eastern Indian state of Odisha
If the storm continues on its current path without weakening, it is expected to cause large-scale power and communications outages and shut down road and rail links, officials said. There would also be extensive damage to crops.
One official said tens of thousands of more people will be moved to safer areas before the cyclone hits. 'No one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,' he said.
The government also began evacuating 64,000 people from the low-lying areas of three vulnerable districts in neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, said state Revenue Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy.
The sea had already pushed inland as much as 130 ft in parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Officials have been stockpiling emergency food supplies, and setting up shelters for people expected to flee the heavy winds and rains. The Indian air force said four transport planes and 18 helicopters were being kept ready for relief operations in the region.
The Bay of Bengal has been the scene of some of the deadliest storms in recent history. The 1999 Orissa cyclone, which was similar in strength to Phailin, killed 10,000 people.
Aid: Scores of shelters providing food and accommodation, such as this on in Ganjam district, have been set up for those evacuated
Temporary: Evacuated villagers eat food in a cyclone shelter in Chatrapur, Ganjam district
Evacuation: Villagers in a small lorry attempt to reach a shelter in Podampeta, Ganjam district
Leaving: An couple in Podampeta village drive towards a shelter with their belongings
Approaching: Young people stand on the shore as high tidal waves hit the coastline today
Refuge: Locals take shelter in a temporary cyclone shelter in Chatrapur, Ganjam district
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On October 29, 1999 a super cyclone struck Odisha, causing widespread destruction, with at least 10,000 lives lost and an estimated 1.5 million people rendered homeless. Unofficial estimates suggest those figures could be much higher.
Also called the Cyclone 05B and Paradip Cyclone, it was the deadliest storm to hit India after 1971. The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre issued a disturbance alert on October 23. Another alert was issued on October 25 when the tropical disturbance reached the Andaman Sea. Soon, it became Tropical Depression 5B over the Malay Peninsula, and travelled northwestward. It became Tropical Storm 5B on October 26.
The storm gained in strength and became a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal on October 27, with a velocity of up to 300 km/hr. On October 29, it hit Odisha between Ersama and Balikuda in the Jagatsinghpur district, southwest of Paradip.
The cyclone battered the coastal districts for more than eight hours. A tidal wave that swept across low-lying areas near the coast, wiped out entire villages. Puri, Kendrapara, Khurda and Jagatsinghpur were among the districts worst affected by the cyclone, which was the second storm in a fortnight; the one on October 17, 1999 had struck Ganjam district and left at least 150 people dead in the state.
Though the capital city of Bhubaneswar was spared intensive damage by the October 29 storm, the signs of the havoc were visible everywhere, with reports indicating that even the gates of the then Odisha Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang's house were blocked by uprooted trees. A shell-shocked Gamang, speaking to a wire agency hours after the storm hit his state, said: “The devastation is beyond imagination . . . I have never seen Bhubaneswar and Cuttack cut off from the rest of the country in my life.”
The state government, unprepared to handle a storm of this magnitude, sought help of the Army and the Air Force to carry out massive relief and rescue operations.
Initially, the extent of damage was difficult to ascertain, with the cyclone tearing down bridges and making roads and railways impassable. Rescue efforts were further hampered by the complete breakdown of all communication links with affected areas, and the continuing bad weather.
Defence personnel using helicopters to drop food parcels reported thousands of people stranded on rooftops or pockets of high ground.
Standing crops were destroyed in nine coastal districts while tens of thousands of livestock died. Because of contamination of drinking water by human bodies and decomposed carcasses of animals, hundreds of people contracted chronic diarrhoea and other illnesses.
“When we found ourselves alive after the cyclone, we thought we were lucky. But now we think it would have been better had we died,” Sudhakar Nayak, a 32-year-old farmer from a village near Paradip, told a reporter. “Anything would have been better than the way we are living now.”
On November 1, 1999 a helicopter was attacked in Paradip by angry residents, while carrying the then Defence Minister George Fernandes, Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Minister for Mines Naveen Patnaik. They were protesting the lack of relief supplies, medicines and drinking water. “We are not here to listen to speeches. We want food and water,” they shouted.
“The full extent of the havoc caused by the cyclone in Orissa will not be known for some time, but what is already evident is the total unpreparedness of both the state and central governments for the disaster,” Hindustan Times said in an editorial. “What is unpardonable is that it was not something which could have caught the authorities by surprise, like an earthquake.”
Ten days after the monster storm swept Odisha, receding waters and opening up of a passage into the interiors of the state’s battered coastal areas framed a horrifying picture. In several blocks around the Paradip port in the Jagatsinghpur district, rescuers and aid workers discovered mounds of corpses in nearly every village, rotting alongside tonnes of carcasses.
In dozens of villages, there was barely anyone left alive to mourn the dead. Mass cremations were carried out to check the spread of diseases.
The relief efforts came under pointed criticism. In a damning article,the Outlook magazine reported: “The civic administration, critical for moving relief and saving people, is also in a mess in several districts. A typical case is that of a severely affected coastal district, some 100 km from Bhubaneswar. Its collector was transferred four days after disaster struck, the additional district magistrate’s post still lies vacant and the superintendent of police is on leave and has been replaced by a tainted officer to prevent mobs from looting trucks. The elected parliamentary representative, meanwhile, stays put in Delhi after making a cursory aerial survey and the local legislator lands up a good four days after the calamity.”
If the 1999 storm had a silver lining, it could well be the fact that 14 years later, in October 2013, when another major storm, Cyclone Phailin, hit the Odisha coast, the state administration was, by all accounts, much better prepared and equipped to deal with it. Consequently, the loss to life and property was minimised. That’s a lesson which other state governments need to learn too.
Also on this day:
1931 — Vaali, Tamil poet and lyricist, was born
1988 — Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, social reformer and freedom fighter, passed away
2005 — Three bomb blasts in Delhi killed 62 people and injured more than 200