Cyclone in India weakens after causing damage
By SHONAL GANGULY (AP)BEHRAMPUR, India (AP) — An immense, powerful cyclone that lashed the Indian coast, forcing 500,000 people to evacuate and causing widespread damage, weakened Sunday after making landfall.
October 13, 2013, 2:38 pm TWN
Five people died in the rains that fell ahead of the storm, most killed by falling branches, Indian media reported, but the situation on the ground in many areas was still unclear after Cyclone Phailin slammed into the coast Saturday evening in Orissa state, where power and communications lines were down along much of the coastline.
The storm, the strongest to hit India in more than a decade, washed away tens of thousands of mud and thatched roof huts and sent seawater surging inland. It had slowed significantly overnight, but meteorologists were calling for heavy rains across the state.
"Its intensity is still strong, but after crossing the coast it has weakened considerably," Sharat Sahu, a top official with the Indian Meteorological Dept. in Orissa, told reporters.
Storms typically lose much of their force when they hit land, where there is less heat-trapping moisture feeding energy into the storm.
In Behrampur, about 10 kilometers (7 miles) inland from where the eye of the cyclone struck, there were no reports of deaths early Sunday morning. But the storm had wrought havoc on the small town, with the wind shattering windows, blowing down trees and electrical poles and terrifying residents.
In the state capital of Bhubaneshwar, billboards and traffic lights had fallen across the city and trees were uprooted, but early reports indicated the state capital escaped major damage.
"The 1999 storm was very big, but this was not as strong at least in Bhubaneshwar," said Upendra Malik, a city employee leading a crew working with axes and coils of heavy rope to clear roads of fallen trees and branches. "We've just started to assess the damage and coastal areas will have fared worse."
With most communications down, and many roads impassable because of fallen trees, there was no news at all yet from many coastal towns and villages.
Officials in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh state had been stockpiling emergency food supplies and setting up shelters. The Indian military put some of its forces on alert, with trucks, transport planes and helicopters at the ready for relief operations.