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Cyclone Phailin

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Cyclone Phailin: imaged by IMD at 8:30 AM on 11 October, 2013.

Cyclone Phailin: imaged by IMD at 8:30 AM on 11 October, 2013.

Quartz claims:

An atmospheric beast is forming in the Bay of Bengal and heading straight for India. Cyclone Phailin—pronounced pie-leen; it’s a Thai word for “sapphire”—has exploded from tropical storm strength to potentially the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane.

While bracing for the super cyclone, you can use Z News:

Odisha has opened control rooms for the cyclone. The helpline number of the Odisha Central Control Room is 0674-2534177, PTI report.

The district control room mumbers are :

Mayurbhanj 06792-252759, Jajpur 06728-222648, Gajapati 06815-222943, Dhenkanal 06762-221376, Khurda 06755-220002, Keonjhar 06766-255437, Cuttack 0671-2507842, Ganjam 06811-263978, Puri 06752-223237, Kendrapara 06727-232803, Jagatsinghpur 06724-220368, Balasore 06782-262674, Bhadrak 06784-251881.

IE quoted:

“We expect that the cyclone Phailin will make landfall at about 6 pm on Saturday, October 12,” Dr Mrutunjay Mohapatra, Chief of India’s Cyclone Warning Division, said.

Elsewhere IE quoted IMD officials saying that Cyclone Phailin will be the worst storm since 1999:

Cyclone Phailin, the strongest cyclone to form on the Indian seas this year, Thursday moved closer to Orissa coast, bringing back memories of the 1999 supercyclone as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Union Defence Minister A K Antony seeking assistance from the IAF and Navy for relief and rescue operations.

Phailin, which was formed over North Andaman sea two days ago as a low pressure area, Thursday developed into a severe cyclonic storm with a well-marked eye in its centre as it moved northwestwards. Met Department officials in Bhubaneswar said Phailin would continue to move northwestwards and make landfall close to Gopalpur on sea in Ganjam district, which will bear the cyclone’s brunt, by Saturday evening. By the time Phailin hits the coast, it would have a maximum sustained wind speed of 175-185 km/hour, with gusts reaching up to 200 km/hour. “In comparison to the 1999 supercyclone, Phailin is just a notch below. We expect it to wreak massive damage after hitting the coast,” an official said.

In 1999, almost 10,000 people died and 19 lakh houses were damaged in 14 districts.

Far away, in Mumbai, on the other side of India, the skies are overcast and there is an occasional drizzle. HT reports:

Days ahead of Dussehra, a widely celebrated festival in the region, government officials are getting ready for rescue and relief operations in the coastal districts.

The Odisha government had already cancelled the Durga Puja holidays of employees in all districts.

Around 600 cyclone shelters have been set up in Orissa and are being stocked up with dry and cooked food as well as medicines.

The Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force has been deployed while the armed forces are on standby.

Using trucks and buses, authorities evacuated 40,000 people from 40 villages to government-run shelters, schools and buildings in five districts of Orissa state, said Surya Narayan Patra, the state revenue and disaster management minister.

Patra said authorities plan to take another 100,000 people to safer areas before the cyclone hits the region. “No one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas,” he said.

Authorities also planned to shift thousands of people and cattle to safer areas in neighboring Andhra Pradesh state, the state government statement said.

DNA reported:

12 IAF helicopters will arrive in state tomorrow, says special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra. 300 Army jawans, 50 doctors from Navy and 29 rescue teams will arrive in state tomorrow, he added. Evacuation of 6 lakh people from 7 districts is going on. Cooked food will be provided from tonight [11 Oct], says special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra.

As many as 64,000 people in the north coastal districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh are being evacuated to safer places.

Washington Post carries this report:

The storm is the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane, which comes with these kinds of impacts, according to the National Hurricane Center:

A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

“A Category 5 (equivalent) landfall on that region will be unimaginable,” says Brian McNoldy, Capital Weather Gang tropical weather expert.

By far, the greatest threat from Phailin is its storm surge. When the storm makes a landfall, it is likely to push ashore a devastating wall of water up to 20 feet high just north of its center, inundating vast, highly-populated areas.

A storm surge disaster is practically unavoidable writes Hal Needham, a research climatologist and storm surge specialist on staff at Louisiana State University.

“The storm conditions 18 hours before landfall tend to correlate best with storm surge heights,” writes Needham. “This means essentially that a catastrophic storm surge is a certainty given the forecast intensity and size at 18 hours before landfall”

Needham adds: “Tropical Cyclone Phailin has the potential to generate a surge at least 6 meters (20 feet) high.”

HT added:

The warning brought back memories of a killer cyclone which left nearly 10,000 people dead in 1999 and caused widespread devastation whose effects are felt by the state even now.

This time, however, the state government sought to calm fears and said it was better prepared. It broadcast cyclone warnings through loudspeakers and on radio and television as the first winds were felt on the coast and in the state capital, Bhubaneswar. Army and disaster management teams are on the standby to help in evacuation and rescue measures.

Union home secretary said nearly 12 million people will be affected by the cyclone.

Cyclone Phailin preparedness infographic

October 13, 2013

About 12 hours after the storm struck, DNA reported:

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said as per preliminary reports, situation in Gopalpur in Odisha’s Ganjam district appeared to be encouraging and the wind-speed has come down significantly and the National Disaster Response Force was trying to asses the damage there.

“Wind speed in Gopalpur where the eye of the cyclone passed through has come down to 90-100 kmph at 8 am. We are still trying to assess the devastation caused by the disaster,” he told PTI here.

According to M Mohapatra, Scientist (Cyclone Warning) with the IMD, by 5.30 am on Sunday morning the cyclone started showing signs of weakening with the wind speed reducing to 160-170 kmph.

He however, added that it is still a “very severe cyclonic storm”.

Z News reports a startling casualty figure:

The death toll due to Cyclone Phailin is feared to have gone up to 15 with more bodies reported to have been found in Ganjam district of Odisha. Police said two bodies each were found in Berhampur town, Purosottampur, Ganjam town and Rangelilunda areas.

Considering that counts of deaths in 1999 ranged from around 10,000 to 45,000, the disaster preparedness is startling. Part of the reason may be that it will be some time before communications are restored. But part is due to the enormous improvement in storm prediction in the Bay of Bengal. Post landfall prediction is harder, so there may eventually be more casualties from neighbouring states.

HT reported:

Operations to rescue those trapped under the debris are on in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 3,000 personnel of NDRF have been deployed.

Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to restore power supplies and telecommunication links as the winds snapped thousands of trees and poles, while buildings and some communication towers were destroyed. Before Phailin made landfall on Saturday, power supplies were shut down as a precaution.

The remnants of the storm are likely to dump “heavy to very heavy rains” across Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in the next 24 hours. Parts of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh were also expected to see heavy rainfall.

Authorities in Odisha were assessing the damage that Phailin would have caused overnight before moving inland, but their task was complicated by a prolonged power shutdown and snapping of telephone services in the affected areas.

Eye witness reports said the powerful winds on Saturday snapped trees like matchsticks and swept away rooftops besides flattening paddy crop across a large swathe of farmland. Heavy damage is feared in Odisha’s Ganjam district and the coastal stretch between Andhra towns of Kalingapatnam and Ichapuram.

Odisha’s top rescue official said 860,000 people moved before the cyclone made landfall on Saturday evening, while at least another 100,000 were evacuated further south in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Residents were also evacuated from coastal regions of West Bengal.

The government had said on Saturday evening that some 550,000 people had been evacuated but efforts to persuade people to flee to safer areas continued until shortly before Phailin made landfall at around 9pm.

About 6.5 lakh people were evacuated from the storm’s path, in what is said to be the biggest peacetime human movement in the country in 23 years. More than 1,700 soldiers besides rescue teams from the navy were kept on standby for emergencies.

October 14, 2013

Two days later, this is what BS had to report:

Although damage to property was estimated at several crores of rupees, loss of human lives was minimal in comparison to the 1999 super cyclone, in which more than 10,000 people died.

Officials said the latest cyclone and flooding has caused 21 deaths so far. The low casualty figure this time was because of timely evacuation of affected areas, following accurate predictions from the weather office, officials said.

This example could be a turning point in the relation between the government and the electors in India.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

October 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

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