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At least 4 deaths confirmed after fierce Cyclone Phailin hits India

By Laura Smith-Spark. Harmeet Shah Singh and Lonzo Cook, CNN
updated 12:16 AM EDT, Sun October 13, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Power lines and trees are down, cars are overturned
  • Nearly 8 inches of rain falls in Bhubaneswar since Friday
  • The cyclone made landfall at 9 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET)
  • More than 500,000 people are evacuated, a disaster official says

Bhubaneswar, India (CNN) -- [Breaking news update 12:09 a.m.]

There have been at least four confirmed deaths from Tropical Cyclone Phailin, Amitabh Thakor, deputy inspector general of Brahmapur, Odisha, told CNN. Three were killed Saturday; a fourth was confirmed dead Sunday. Local police told CNN's sister network in India, CNN-IBN, that seven people had been killed by falling trees.

[Last update at 10:24 p.m.]

In morning light, India assesses damage from Cyclone Phailin

(CNN) -- Morning light on Sunday revealed some of the damage from Tropical Cyclone Phailin, which made landfall on India's eastern coast as the strongest storm to hit India in 14 years.

Power lines and trees were down and cars were overturned near the spot where the center of the storm struck the coast around 9 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) Saturday in eastern Odisha state, along the Bay of Bengal.

Debris littered wet streets, roofs were torn off houses and windows on buildings were smashed in Brahmapur.

Odisha's director-general of police, Prakash Mishra, told CNN that two men and a woman were killed by trees brought down by heavy winds in the state. Local police in Odisha told CNN's sister network in India, CNN-IBN, that seven people had been killed by falling trees.

A woman walks near overturned boats in Pudumpeta, India, on Monday, October 14. Debris littered the streets and gaping holes were left in buildings after Tropical Cyclone Phailin pounded the eastern coast of India. Massive evacuation efforts helped limit the number of casualties. A woman walks near overturned boats in Pudumpeta, India, on Monday, October 14. Debris littered the streets and gaping holes were left in buildings after Tropical Cyclone Phailin pounded the eastern coast of India. Massive evacuation efforts helped limit the number of casualties.
Cyclone Phailin slams India's coast
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Cyclone Phailin slams India\'s coast Cyclone Phailin slams India's coast
Powerful cyclone makes landfall in India
See Cyclone Phailin make landfall
Cyclone Phailin to cause major damage

Hurricanes are known as cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and the wind speed at landfall -- 140 mph -- made it equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane.

India evacuated more than a half-million people in advance of the storm, hoping to avoid a repetition of what happened 1999, when a cyclone claimed 10,000 lives.

"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."

Since Friday, Phailin has brought nearly 8 inches of rain to Odisha's capital of Bhubaneswar, about 30 miles from the coast. The city's average rainfall for October is 6.5 inches.

The storm will continue to fall apart as it moves over land, but tropical-storm-force winds are still possible through early Monday, said CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones. Rainfall will also be a problem as Phailin moves up toward the Himalayas in Nepal.

Multiple states in the region were under weather warnings for excessive rainfall and thunderstorms for most of Sunday and into Monday, Jones said.

500,000 people evacuated

Residents were evacuated to safer places in Odisha and the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, national disaster-management authority chief Marri Shashidhar Reddy said.

More than 400,000 were moved to safety in Odisha alone, he told CNN.

Many of those evacuated from low-lying coastal areas of Odisha left on foot or by bicycle, Kamal Lochan Mishra said.

They are being housed in nearly 250 emergency shelters set up in sturdy buildings like schools and government offices.

The Ganjam district of Odisha is expected to be the worst hit, with disaster preparedness efforts concentrated there, CNN-IBN reported.

The India Meteorological Department warned of extensive damage to kutcha houses, those made of flimsy materials like mud and bamboo, as well as damage to old buildings.

Power and communication lines are likely to suffer large-scale disruption. Extensive flooding will also disrupt rail and road traffic, and crops are likely to suffer major damage, it said.

In Gopalpur, a coastal resort town in Ganjam, restaurants were shuttered and streets deserted Saturday afternoon, as rain lashed down. Tourists and local residents were asked to leave the town.

Power was out in coastal areas including Kalingapatnam, from where about 80,000 people were evacuated to relief camps, CNN-IBN reported. Some fishermen earlier told the broadcaster they had defied the order to leave, anxious to see what happened on the shore.

Powerful cyclone bears down on India

Military deployed

Some fear a repeat of what happened on October 29, 1999, when Cyclone 05B, also known as the Odisha Cyclone, made landfall in the same area, killing 10,000 people. It was the strongest tropical cyclone recorded in the Bay of Bengal, with winds of 155 mph at landfall, and it caused more than $2 billion in damage.

In advance of the storm, military units and National Disaster Response Force personnel were deployed to coastal areas with relief supplies and medical aid, CNN-IBN said. More than 20 medical teams flew to the region.

Federal and state government ministers are being briefed on the situation, the cabinet secretary said.

All flights to Odisha have been canceled and train services in the state are also disrupted, CNN's sister network reported.

Disaster preparedness

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."

The organization has worked for the past several years to train 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.

CNN's Lonzo Cook reported from Bhubaneswar and Harmeet Shah Singh from New Delhi and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London. CNN's Khushbu Shah, Tom Sater and Ivan Cabrera contributed to this report.

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