Incredible though it may sound, panic hit this coastal village and adjoining Mangamaripeta a mere three hours before cyclone Phailin made landfall.
The locals, fishermen all, had weathered many a storm. And news of just another one did not worry them much – that is, till the surf rose and sea water entered their homes.
“The villagers were not budging an inch, but the afternoon surge of the angry sea did the trick,” said a local constable.
Mangamaripeta is 4 m above the sea level. And till yesterday, the police had to use force to turn back the people who insisted on venturing out to sea. The coast had been barricaded. But as the surf rose to five meters above normal, everyone ran pell-mell for higher ground.
“I have not seen anything like this in the recent past,” said coconut vendor S Appalaraju.
What makes matters worse for Kalingapatnam is that with the sea rising, the nearby river Vamsadhara is unable to release its waters into the sea. Now, the river, too, has swollen and the administration fears it can easily flood the village of 20,000 people.
The situation was not much better elsewhere. Low-lying villages were flooded, the sea advanced, the wind roared and communications snapped. In west Godavari’s Polavaram and Narsapur, the sea had come 40 meters inland.
Roughly, around 85 000 people have been evacuated in three districts of Andhra Pradesh, but the number would rise once the cyclone hits. The first six hours are crucial, said Srikakulam collector Saurabh Gaur.