Cyclone Phailin’s death toll was much less than it could have been, thanks to advance preparation and the evacuation of almost a million coastal residents.
At least 25 people were killed as a direct result of the cyclone, but considering how strong the storm was, the number of lives lost could have been much worse.
A storm slightly more powerful than Phailin hit the eastern coast of India in 1999, killing about 10,000 people, reports CNN. That cyclone, Orissa, also caused more than $2 billion in damage.
Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, the special relief commissioner for Odisha state, added that almost everyone who was evacuated ahead of the storm had gone home by Monday evening. Those who hadn’t expected to go home by Tuesday morning.
While loss of life was small, Cyclone Phailin still caused significant damage. The massive storm flooded highways and knocked down countless trees and power lines. Authorities estimated it could take a week to restore power, while flooded roads and rail lines could take longer to fix.
Yahoo! News notes that thousands of homes were also destroyed, forcing thousands of coastal residents to stay in shelters. One resident, Agya Amma, commented, “If we had stayed here, everyone in the village would be dead.” Coastal towns were forced to evacuate starting four days before the cyclone hit.
Police officers went door to door to warn residents of the storm and urge them to go to government shelters, which were set up in schools and other concrete buildings. A few people did ignore the warnings or stayed behind to guard their belongings. However, many remembered the cyclone 14 years ago and the death toll that came with it.
Many of the coastal residents emerged from the shelters to learn they lost everything. Authorities distributed tarps to help the newly homeless build makeshift shelters, according to state police official M.N. Rao. He added that relief centers were open and food was being supplied to those in need.
While the remnants of Cyclone Phailin moved toward the Himalayan state of Sikkim, recovery operations continued in the areas hit hardest by the storm.
[Image by NASA, MODIS via Wikimedia Commons]