Cyclone Phailin wanes, claims 14 lives

Bhubaneswar, Oct 13 : India averted a major calamity on Sunday as cyclone Phailin, said to be the biggest storm to hit the country in more than a decade, weakened considerably but not before leaving 14 people dead and causing widespread destruction.

The cyclonic storm changed its course and weakened in intensity after hitting the coastal areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh and moved north towards Jharkhand, avoiding Jharkhand.

"There are 13 deaths in Orissa and one in Andhra Pradesh. So we have been able to keep the death toll to a bare minimum," said vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority Marri Shashidhar Reddy.

Some media reports however said 23 people -- 21 in Odisha and two in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh -- were killed in the aftermath of the storm.

Odisha special relief commissioner Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said electricity and water supplies will be restored in most areas by Sunday evening, except in the worst-hit Ganjam district.

Besides Ganjam that bore the brunt of the storm, more than 5 lakh hectares of farmland were damaged, 9 lakh trees were uprooted across seven coastal districts, the state government said.

In Andhra Pradesh, road stretches on national highways measuring 18 kilometres and 400-km of electrical lines were damaged while several thousand acres of agricultural fields suffered damages, an initial assessment showed.

Major loss of life was averted as around 8.73 lakh people were evacuated from 99 blocks spread over 12 districts in the two states, in biggest such operation in decades.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik said, "Our priority was to save lives and I think we've been successful."

However rehabilitation of the displaced people would be a challenge, he admitted adding, "Property worth several lakh crores of rupees was damaged."

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) meanwhile stood vindicated as yhe cyclones final outcome matched its danger forecasts that were consistently below those from foreign meteorologists.

"They have been issuing over-warnings, we have been contradicting them," L.S. Rathore, IMD director general told a press conference in New Delhi.

In its last bulletin late Sunday, the met office said, "Cyclonic Storm 'Phailin' weakened into [a] deep depression over north Chhatisgarh and
adjoining Odisha and Jharkhand."

"The cyclonic storm over Odisha moved northwards with a speed of 20 kmph during past 6 hours, weakened further into a deep depression and lay centred at 5 pm, Oct 13 over north Chhattisgarh and adjoining areas of Odisha and Jharkhand

The location was reported as 70 km north-northwest of Jharsuguda and 90 km south-southeast of Ambikapur.

"The system would move northwards during next 6 hours, then north-northeastwards and weaken gradually into a depression during next 12 hours," it added.

In a warning for Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the IMD said rainfall at many places with isolated heavy falls would occur over interior Odisha
during next 12 hours and decrease thereafter.

"Rainfall at many places with isolated heavy to very heavy falls would occur over Bihar, Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim during next 48 hours.

"Rainfall at many places with isolated heavy falls over north Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, during next 12 hours," it added.

--IBNS (Posted on 14-10-2013)

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