Cyclone Phailin, the most powerful storm to hit India in more than a decade, waned considerably on Sunday after hitting the Odisha coast on Saturday night.
The weakened system was moving beyond Odisha towards the north-northwest with a speed of about 20km per hour, according to
the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). It will traverse Bihar and parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh by Tuesday, before moving to Nepal, whose rivers can trigger flooding in Bihar. Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Bihar have been put on alert.
Andhra Pradesh, which was also expected to be hit by the cyclone, mostly escaped its fury.
Odisha revenue and disaster management minister SN Patra confirmed that there were no casualties, though eight people were killed due to uprooting of trees in the strong winds before the cyclone struck.
Authorities were struggling to restore power supplies and telecommunication links in seven coastal districts of Odisha as the winds snapped thousands of trees and poles, while buildings and some communication towers were destroyed. At least 13 electricity towers, nine of them in the worst-hit Ganjam district, were destroyed.
Before Phailin made landfall at the port town of Gopalpur around 9pm on Saturday, power supplies were shut down as a precaution.
The state government said 5 lakh hectares of farmland was damaged while 9 lakh trees were uprooted across seven coastal districts. Ganjam district suffered the maximum damage.
At least 8.73 lakh people were evacuated from 99 blocks spread over 12 districts in the two states, in what is said to be the biggest peacetime human movement in the country in 23 years.
"Our priority was to save lives and I think we've been successful," chief minister Naveen Patnaik said adding rehabilitation of the displaced people would be a "challenge". "Property worth several lakh crores was damaged," he said.
The evacuated are huddled in schools and temples, and preventing waterborne diseases will be a major focus.
Meanwhile, Bhubaneswar airport resumed flights on Sunday noon.
Operations are on to rescue those trapped under the debris in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, where more than 3,000 personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed.
"Our teams are out in both Odisha and Andhra Pradesh for rescue and relief operations. So far we have not received any report of casualties anywhere," NDRF chief Krishna Chowdhary told news agency PTI.
More than a dozen coastal villages have been submerged by the cyclone that was classified as a Category 4 storm on a scale of 1 to 5.
More flooding was expected as all the major rivers cutting through the state - Mahanadi, Baitarani and Budhabalanga rivers - were in spate after heavy rains upstream. There were also reports of a swollen Chilika - Asia's largest brackish water lake that lies 50 km north of Gopalpur - inundating villages and cutting off many road links in the interior.
News of Phailin has been making headlines since it was formed in the Bay of Bengal earlier this week and churned its way across the high seas, turning into what many feared could be a repeat of the super-cyclone of 1999, which killed more than 10,000 people and left behind such destruction that took years to be undone.
Latest on Cyclone Phailin
• Eighteen fishermen, who were trapped in a trawler near Paradip ahead of Cyclone Phailin, have returned safely on Sunday.
• Director general Indian Meteorological Department LS Rathore said flood warning has been issued in Bihar as an advancing Phailin may lead to heavy rains in catchments of Kosi and Gandak rivers.
• Heavy rains today lashed Jharkhand, as a peripheral effect of Phailin. A Met official said 74.6 mm rain was recorded in Ranchi till 8.30 am while Jamshedpur (52.4 mm) and Bokaro (58.4 mm) also experienced heavy rainfall and surface winds.
• Cargo ship MV Bingo headed for China with a crew of 20 members and a load of 8,000 tonnes of iron ore is believed to have sunk in the rough seas caused by Phailin. Its crew on a lifeboat was last sighted east of Sagar in West Bengal, a top Kolkata Port Trust official said on Sunday.
(With inputs from Priya Ranjan Sahu in Bhubaneswar, KV Lakshmana in Srikakulam, Chetan Chauhan and Zia Haq in Delhi)
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