Cyclone Phailin could be worst storm to hit India

12 Oct 2013

Cyclone Phailin, which is hurtling towards India's east coast with a severity worse than Hurricane Katrina that devastated the US Gulf in 2005, could hit the coast between Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Paradip in Odisha by 6 pm today.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that the cyclone would have wind speed of 200 kmph to 250 kmph at landfall when it hits the coast between Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Paradip in Odisha late on Saturday.

However, the London-based Tropical Storm and the US navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre have both warned of winds reaching 315 kmph (195 mph) on landfall and have classified Phailin as a Category 5 storm - the most powerful.

Meanwhile, more than a lakh people have either left or shifted out of the coastal districts across Orissa and Andhra Pradesh by evening today, and more and more people are fleeing the east coast to escape the wrath of Cyclone Phalin.

With people, mainly workers from the different industries, including the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) refinery near the Paradip Port Trust (PPT), Paradip Phosphates Limited (PPL), IFFCO and Essar steel plant, have started vacating the town since Thursday.

"Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting. A recent satellite estimate put Phailin's current intensity on par with 2005's Hurricane Katrina in the United States," said Eric Holthaus, meteorologist for Quartz, a US-based online magazine.

"Everything I know as a meteorologist tells me this is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane - among the strongest on earth in 2013. That would mean Phailin could be the strongest cyclone ever measured in the Indian Ocean."

Hurricane Katrina, which hit the US Gulf coast on 29 August 2005, killed more than 1,800 people, drove 2.16 million out of their homes and caused damages of over $75 billion.

While the coastal regions around the Bay of Bengal are often prone to cyclonic storms, often causing deaths, mass evacuations of coastal villages, power and telecoms disruptions and widespread damage to crops and property, experts have warned that there could be a repeat of the 1999 super cyclone that killed 10,000 people when it battered the Odisha coast with wind speeds reaching 300 kmph (185mph).

The cyclone could disrupt the lives of millions, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) run by the United Nations and the European Commission said.

"Up to 6.1 million people can be affected by wind speeds of cyclone strength or above. In addition, 47,000 people are living in coastal areas below 5 metres above sea level and can be affected by storm surge," the GDACS said in a web site release.

The central and state governments have positioned troops and disaster management personnel at strategic locations and have moved out necessary rations and other relief material well ahead of the storm. Control rooms have been set up.

Cyclone shelters have been set up at schools and other buildings on higher ground, and fishing has been suspended across the east coast.

Authorities have moved out most of the people living along the Odisha and Andhra coastline to shelters early on Friday, following warnings of extensive damage to homes, power and telecoms disruptions and flooding.

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