Belying fears, the cyclonic storm, Phailin, crossed the Odisha coast near Gopalpur, 20 km from here, on Saturday night without causing widespread devastation or claiming many lives in this State and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
Experts had even compared Phailin with hurricane Katrina, which devastated the U.S. in 2005.
The India Meteorological Department said the cyclone made its landfall with a wind speed of 200 km per hour.
L.S. Rathore, IMD Director-General (meteorology), reiterated that it was not a super cyclone and the intensity was found to be of level 6. The eye of the cyclone was estimated to be 15 km in spread.
Coastal town Berhampur, which bore the brunt of the storm, experienced heavy rains for a brief while, from 9 p.m. at the time of the landfall.
Two persons died in Ganjam district, crushed under tress that fell in the impact of high speed winds. (A PTI report said five persons were killed in Odisha).
Coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, barring Srikakulam and north coastal districts, escaped cyclone fury. Heavy rains lashed Srikakulam district, uprooting electric poles and trees and plunging large areas into darkness. Twelve towns in the coastal districts of Odisha plunged into darkness as power had been switched off since morning. They were Ganjam, Gajapati, Khurda, Nayagarh, Puri, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsingh, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj.
Officials in Odisha said the extent of damage is much less than feared. Much to their relief, rains subsided and wind speeds reduced to 100-120 kmph at 9.30 p.m. However, the speed picked up to 200 kmph around 10 p.m.
There was no information on damage to property and lives and it can only be assessed by Sunday afternoon, according to Amitabh Thakur, DIG of Police, Berhampur. Relief teams from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are on standby. All shops, hotels, ATMs and other public facilities remained shut as there was no power in the district. The communication network was hit. Several trees and electric poles were damaged.
Earlier, heavy rain, with wind speeds reaching 120-150 kmph, triggered devastation. Fallen trees, uprooted electric poles and broken walls could be seen at various places in Berhampur. Walls of the City Women’s College and the SBI main branch were broken. Durga mandaps put up as part of Dasara festivities collapsed near the Old Bus Stand and Khollikote College. The Rushikulya and the Bahuda rivers were in spate as the government directed officials to undertake relief and rescue operations on a war-footing.
An estimated 1.40 lakh people had been evacuated from low-lying areas to cyclone shelters and relief camps.
Fishermen and locals had been forcibly shifted to the relief camps. Hundreds of fishermen from Gopalpur, Baxipalli, Venkatapur, Haripur, Bandar and other hamlets were provided accommodation at cyclone shelters and relief camps.
As per IMD data, rainfall received in Bhubaneswar from 8.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. was 130 mm, while Gopalpur received 78 mm and Puri 81 mm.