UK & World News
Cyclone Phailin Destroys Land But Spares Lives
A huge evacuation effort in India has spared its eastern states from widespread loss of life after cyclone Phailin flooded towns and destroyed thousands of homes.
The storm, which brought winds of over 125mph (200kph) and heavy rain, was the strongest to hit India in more than a decade.
However, authorities said only 14 deaths have been confirmed so far.
This toll is expected to rise because officials have been unable to reach some areas that have become isolated by blocked roads and downed communication links.
Around one million people left Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states before the storm made landfall.
"Damage to property is extensive," said Amitabh Thakur, the top police officer in the Orissa district worst-hit by the cyclone. "But few lives have been lost."
In Gopalpur, where the storm made landfall, power lines sagged nearly to the ground and a strong surf churned off the coast.
"Everyone feels very lucky," said Prabhati Das, a 40-year-old woman who came from the town of Behrampur, about 7 miles (10km) inland, to see the aftermath at the coast.
But for the people living along the coast, many of whom live as subsistence farmers in mud-and-thatch huts, the economic toll will be immense.
Heavy rains and surging seawater destroyed more than 500,000 hectares (1.23 million acres) of crops worth an estimated 24 billion rupees (£246m), according to Orissa's disaster minister, S N Patro.
British Prime Minister David Cameron described the damage as "shocking," and said in a Twitter message that Britain would do "what it can to help".
A cargo ship carrying iron ore, the MV Bingo, sank on Saturday as the cyclone barrelled through the Bay of Bengal, and its crew of 18 - made up of 17 Chinese and one Indonesian - went missing for a day, coast guard officials said.
They were rescued on Sunday after their lifeboat was found about 115 miles (185km) off the Indian coast, coast guard Commandant Sharad Matri said.
The storm weakened significantly after making landfall early on Saturday night, with some areas reporting little more than breezy drizzles on Sunday.
Indian officials spoke dismissively of American forecasters who had warned of a record-breaking cyclone that would drive a massive wall of water - perhaps as large as 9m high (30ft-high) - into the coastline.
"They have been issuing warnings, and we have been contradicting them," said L.S. Rathore, director-general of the Indian Meteorological Department. "That is all that I want to say.
"As a scientist, we have our own opinion and we stuck to that. We told them that is what is required as a national weather service - to keep people informed with the reality without being influenced by over-warning," he said at a news conference in New Delhi.
The Indian government had faced immense public criticism after its slow response to a series of deadly floods and mudslides in June in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where more than 6,000 people were killed.
But officials took few chances with Phailin, especially given memories of a 1999 Orissa cyclone that devastated the coastline and left at least 10,000 people dead.