Tropical Cyclone Phailin is gathering in the Bay of Bengal and will soon make landfall on India’s east coast. Preparations are underway to insure that the destruction from Phailin doesn’t compare to the disastrous Cyclone 05B, also known as the Odisha Cyclone, which made landfall in the same area, causing the loss of more than 10,000 lives on October 29, 1999.
According to CNN, authorities have laid down a mandatory evacuation of at least 440,000 people from low lying areas in Odisha. They left on foot or by bicycle, the country’s National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman, Marri Shashidhar Reddy, told reporters at a televised news conference early Saturday afternoon. Evacuations will continue until Phailin roars ashore, he said.
“We have taken a zero-casualty approach,” said Odisha state disaster manager Kamal Lochan Mishra. “If people do not move, force will be used to evacuate them.”
The evacuees will be housed in about 250 emergency shelters in buildings like schools and government offices until the cyclone subsides, which likely won’t happen in the next two days.
International humanitarian organization World Vision said it was helping local community groups prepare for the cyclone’s arrival.
“In a storm of this magnitude there is the potential for widespread damage to crops and livestock in the low-lying coastal areas and houses completely wiped away,” said Kunal Shah, the head of World Vision’s emergency response in India. “So while we are praying this storm loses intensity, we’re also preparing.”
World Vision has trained the local people in disaster preparedness, including search and rescue, basic first aid and how to protect livestock, and has thousands of emergency response kits ready to hand out where needed.
“We believe communities are better prepared than they were when the devastating cyclone hit in 1999,” said Shah.
Locals were advised to stay indoors during the storms, as they could be injured by flying debris, as well as the possible flooding of escape routes.
Phailin is expected to make landfall somewhere near the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states in India before 9 p.m. local time (about noon ET).
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