Phailin, the powerful cyclone that millions braced for on India's east coast in Odisha, weakened by Sunday afternoon, causing far less harm to lives than feared, as it slowly settled over a large area that will see torrential rains and flooding, specifically Bihar, which is on alert.
The extreme weather wrecked crops, uprooted trees and blew off homes, affecting nearly nine million people, officials said.
The massive storm, which made landfall in Odisha’s beach town, Gopalpur, at 9.30pm on Saturday, was sweeping northwards, as it waned. The storm is set to traverse Bihar and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh by Sunday night, before moving into Nepal, whose rivers could trigger flooding in Bihar.
“Bihar faces a risk of heavy flooding from a run-off into its Kosi and Gandak rivers, which originate in Nepal. We have issued a flood warning for Bihar,” the chief of India meteorological department, the national weather bureau, LS Rathore said.
A precise estimation of the severity of Phailin, along with other parameters, such as wind speeds, by Met scientists
helped saved hundreds of thousands people in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, which were along the cyclone’s path when it was most severe.
“Officially, this seems to be zero-loss-of-lives scenario,” Rathore said.
Although 14 were dead, according to officials, Rathore said the description of “zero-loss” was applicable in the context of the number of people “officially targeted” to be saved, which ran into half a million.
Apart from Bihar, windy conditions and heavy rains are now expected in four states -- Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and parts of western UP.
Bihar has put 28 vulnerable districts on alert. Authorities are being asked to step up preparedness and mount vigil on key embankments along the Kosi, a river known to wreak havoc when in spate.
Phailin (pronounced pee-lin) remained in the "very severe category" in Orissa until 2.30pm Sunday. According to India’s weather-classification norms, a cyclone is said to “very severe” when it packs wind speeds of 210-220 km an hour. If a cyclone sustains a faster clip -– of beyond 230kmph -– it makes the “super cyclone” grade, like the one in Orissa in 1999.
By 5.30pm, it became a “cyclonic storm”, a conditions where wind speeds slow to less than 120 km. By midnight, it would have ceased to be a cyclone.
In Andhra, where the cyclone passed over without much effect, was declared "de-warned", or out of danger, early Sunday, a surprisingly good news for officials battling one of the worst weather events in 14 years.