Cyclone Phailin smashes into Indian coast

Widespread damage reported as storm batters Orissa and Andra Pradesh, but early indications suggested few deaths.

    Cyclone Phailin has smashed the eastern coast of India, sending surges of seawater inland and battering towns and villages with heavy winds and rain, but early indications suggested few deaths.

    Al Jazeera's Karishma Vyas, reporting from New Delhi, said the cyclone appeared to have caused "large scale" destruction in parts of Orissa and Andra Pradesh states, but few deaths.

    More than 800,000 people were evacuated from their homes before the storm hit Golpalpur in Orissa late on Saturday. News agencies and Indian television reported between two and eight confirmed deaths, but information from inside affected areas was scarce. 

    Phailin is one of the biggest cyclones in a decade in the storm hotspot Bay of Bengal. A 1999 cyclone killed 10,000 people in Orissa.

    Its winds have reached speeds of 300km/h and the storm was expected to cause widespread cuts to power and phone lines and shut down road and rail links.

    However, Al Jazeera's Vyas said: "Officials are predicting that most damage occurred to agricultural crops. The areas affected are largely agricultural and they were just about to harvest rice for the year after a very healthy monsoon. It looks like most of that would have been destroyed."

    Al Jazeera's Faiz Jamil, reporting from Andra Pradesh, said that the destruction of crops would have huge implications not only for the farmers but food supply in India.

    Windows shattered

    The AP news agency, reporting from Behrampur, a town about 10km inland from where the storm hit, said that heavy winds and rains shattered windows and hurled objects around the streets.

    A few hours before it hit land, the eye of the storm collapsed, spreading hurricane-force winds out over a larger area and giving it a "bigger damage footprint", said Jeff Masters, the meteorology director for the US-based private company, Weather Underground.

    Despite the early warnings and evacuations, some people decided to stay behind to protect their property.

    "My son had to stay back with his wife because of the cattle and belongings," said 70-year-old Kaushalya Jena, who had been moved to a shelter. "I don't know if they are safe."

    Ahead of landfall, Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told the AP news agency: "You really don't get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world."

    "This is a remarkably strong storm. It's going to carry hurricane-force winds inland for about 12 hours."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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