Early Warnings, Evacuations Saved Lives in Cyclone

As India began Sunday to tally the damage inflicted by a massive cyclone, officials and residents of coastal villages said one thing was clear: early warnings and mass evacuations had minimized casualties.
The storm—which smashed into India’s southeast coast late Saturday with winds of 200 …

As India began Sunday to tally the damage inflicted by a massive cyclone, officials and residents of coastal villages said one thing was clear: early warnings and mass evacuations had minimized casualties.

The storm—which smashed into India’s southeast coast late Saturday with winds of 200 kilometers an hour—destroyed crops and wrecked buildings and infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars, officials estimated.

But the death toll, authorities said, was lower than feared. State-government officials in the two hardest-hit areas, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, reported less than 20 deaths as of Sunday night. A 1999 cyclone, though somewhat bigger, killed an estimated 15,000 people.

“People were still out in the fields when the 1999 cyclone came. This time around most people moved to government shelters,” said Brajmohan Mahapatra, a rice farmer in this village in Orissa.

While lives were saved, Mr. Mahapatra said, local agriculture had been ravaged. “Almost all the trees in our village are gone and our rice fields have been completely destroyed.”

With damage spread across a wide swath of hard-to-reach places and communications largely knocked out by the storm, it could take days to measure the true impact of the cyclone, dubbed Phailin.

“The storm blew away the roof of my home last night. Luckily, we had moved into a government building because officials had been telling us to move out for the past two days,” said Raju Shetty, a resident of Khurdamal, another village in Orissa. “Otherwise we would have surely died.”

Crop damage in the region was extensive, local farmers and officials said. R.S. Gopalan, director of agriculture and food production in Orissa, said about 14% of the state’s rice crop had been damaged—a loss of more than $300 million.

The region’s vegetable, peanut and corn crops were also hurt, he said. Rural roads here—where most people sustain themselves by growing rice, bananas, coconuts and other agricultural goods—were flanked by uprooted trees, flattened crops and flooded fields.

Hundreds of villagers Sunday were selling papayas, vegetables and whatever else they could salvage at throwaway prices. But there were few takers.

Jhunna Behra, a 60-year-old small farmer, as she squatted next to a pile of papayas, pumpkins and guavas in the village of Subalaya in Orissa, worried about how she would eat in the coming days after his food runs out.

The Indian Red Cross Society said there were close to 100,000 people by Saturday night in the 75 shelters it helps to run but many of them had left to go home on Sunday.

“We are not sure what is going to happen,” with the people that cannot return to their homes or how long it will be until they can go home, Manish Choudhary, a New Delhi-based Red Cross director, said.

Surada Mahalaxmi lost her home and most of her meager belongings when the cyclone flooded Kondapalem, a village in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Her simple hut was on the water so she ran to higher ground when the storm hit. She could only watch as her home was being destroyed.

“First the roof was blown away and then water streamed in and destroyed the smaller huts,” she said. “We live in a flood-prone area because we’re poor.”

Phailin, which has been categorized as a “very severe” cyclone, had a storm surge—a wall of water forced inland by wind—which was between 3 and 3.5 meters high.

It wasn’t as severe as the cyclone that swept over Orissa in 1999. That storm, which wasn’t named, had wind speeds of 260 to 270 kilometers per hour and a storm surge of more than six meters.

Residents along the coast received only one day’s warning before the Oct. 29, 1999 storm. Indian authorities said the massive evacuation efforts and new technology have made this storm much less deadly.

“We have successfully evacuated almost 900,000 people and minimized the loss of life,” Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Orissa, told a news conference.

The neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh also evacuated more than 100,000 people.

Joe Bastardi, chief meteorologist at WeatherBELL Analytics LLC, a weather-consulting firm based in New York, said that while the ferocity of the cyclone could put it among the top 10 for the Bay of Bengal, it landed in a less populated area than earlier cyclones that hit the Ganges Delta and Bangladesh. Victims of this weekend’s cyclone could easily escape to higher ground.

The storm was nearly as big as Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm in the U.S. which had 265-kilometer-per-hour winds and killed 1,200 people in New Orleans, experts said.

The most deadly cyclones have been around the city of Kolkata and in neighboring Bangladesh, where many live on the water and have nowhere to shelter.

“If this storm were heading into Kolkata and the Ganges River delta it would probably be a much bigger disaster,” said Mr. Bastardi.


About Earth Changes Media w/ Mitch Battros

Mitch Battros is a scientific journalist who is highly respected in both the scientific and spiritual communities due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient text. Founded in 1995 – Earth Changes TV was born with Battros as its creator and chief editor for his syndicated television show. In 2003, he switched to a weekly radio show as Earth Changes Media. ECM quickly found its way in becoming a top source for news and discoveries in the scientific fields of astrophysics, space weather, earth science, and ancient text. Seeing the need to venture beyond the Sun-Earth connection, in 2016 Battros advanced his studies which incorporates our galaxy Milky Way - and its seemingly rhythmic cycles directly connected to our Solar System, Sun, and Earth driven by the source of charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and solar rays. Now, "Science Of Cycles" is the vehicle which brings the latest cutting-edge discoveries confirming his published Equation.
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