Thousands evacuated as Cyclone Phailin may be worse than Katrina

Oct 12, 2013, 01:29 IST | Agencies

Odisha yesterday launched a massive drive to evacuate coastal villages as the severe cyclonic storm Phailin is advancing from the Bay of Bengal and is expected to make landfall this evening

The state government has planned to evacuate about a half million people along the coast. “We have so far moved two lakh people to safer places, the remaining would be shifted late today (Friday) night”, a senior disaster management department official said.

Calm before the storm: A fisherman walks on Gopalpur beach after returning from a day’s work. Authorities have begun evacuating the area around the beach as it is expected to take the worst hit. Pic/AFP

While more than 5,000 families from low-lying areas of the beach town of Puri have already been moved to safer places, authorities plan to move more than 30,000 others in the area later in the day.

In Ganjam district, which is expected take the worst hit, authorities have started moving 100,000 families from low-lying areas to safer places like cyclone shelters and school buildings, he said.

The storm over east-central Bay of Bengal moved north-westwards and lay centred about 500 km south-southeast of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur
district and 490 km southeast of Gopalpur in Ganjam district  in Odisha, said SC Sahu, director of the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre.

Stocks of food grain and other essential commodities are being put together in cyclone relief centres so that people do not face difficulties. Arrangements are being made to provide people cooked food at relief centres.

Relief and rescue officials have already arrived. At least 28 teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) would also be pressed into relief work.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to people to stay calm and assist local administration in handling the crisis. “The government is fully prepared,” Patnaik said.

‘Worst ever’
However, the weather office may be underestimating the severity of a cyclone, a meteorologist warned, adding that it could be worse than Hurricane Katrina which devastated parts of the US in 2005.

“Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting. A satellite estimate put Phailin’s intensity on par with Hurricane Katrina in the US,” said Eric Holthaus, meteorologist for Quartz, a US-based online magazine which covers global economy-related issues.

“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
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf coast on August 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people, driving 2.16 million from their homes and causing $75 billion of damage. 

64,000  Number of people who have already been evacuated from Andhra Pradesh

28 Number of NDRF teams who have been called in for search and rescue

15,000 Number of people who died in 1999 when a super cyclone hit Odisha

220 kmph Speed at which the cyclone will make a landfall on Saturday near Gopalpur in Odisha 

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