Cyclone Phailin was Tackled Adroitly by India
October 14, 2013 • 10:08AM

The monster storm, Cyclone Phailin, that moved in to India from the Bay of Bengal in the east, made landfall at Gopalpur, at the junction of two east coast Indian states, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha (former Orissa), on Oct. 12 evening is now losing its energy as it travels northwest inland, and will become close to harmless within a few hours, the Indian authorities report. However, at the time Phailin made the landfall it was packed with a 125 mph wind, gusting up to 150 mph, and heavy rain. A similar storm in 1999 claimed about 10,000 lives in the same area.

Due to well-organized evacuation undertaken by the government authorities using the army, navy, and air force, loss of life was much less this time. At the time of writing, 17 deaths have been reported. The figure will surely go up, but it is a certainty that it will be much less than what many feared. Satellite pictures showed the turbulent weather system spanning nearly 1,000 miles, almost filling the Bay of Bengal. U.S. forecasters compared it in size to Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people in 2005.

Reports indicate that New Delhi and the states involved went onto a war footing and evacuated close to 800,000 people. Five hundred cyclone centers were set up, each equipped with food and medicine for 1,500 people. Marri Shashidhar Reddy, vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Agency, said it was one of the biggest evacuations in India’s history, and had been aided by improved early warning systems. We will be on a war footing, he said in the capital, New Delhi, hours before Phailin made landfall.

What damages Phailin has caused will be evaluated over the coming days. However, what the residents will have to deal with over a long period of time is the salination of agricultural land. Phailin’s high wind lifted the sea by about 12 feet, inundating the coastal arable land and freshwater fish hatcheries that dot that area. The 1999 storm had left behind hundreds of thousands hectares of salinated land that took years of effort to become fully cultivable again.