Cyclone Phalin Scrapes by, Few Casualties


English: Track map of Cyclone Phailin of the 2013 North Indian Ocean cyclone season. The points show the location of the storm at 6-hour intervals. The colour represents the storm’s maximum sustained wind speeds as classified in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (via Wikimedia)

Cyclone Phalin recently struck India with lots of luck and few casualties. The last time a cyclone the size of Phalin struck was in 1999; 10,000 people died. While many people feared the amount of deaths would be similar, this time only 18 people were lost, a major difference. Ironically, it seems that more Indians died in a stampede to a religious festival than the amount of people who died in the cyclone, one of the worst in decades, although the cyclone did wreak havoc, destroying farms, fields, power lines and homes.

Their preparedness, extra military force and vast improvement in communication led to a better outcome this time, although the storm did affect many of the poorest people in the nation. According to BBC News, a widow who only sustains herself on 50 rupees ($0.80) a day selling fish had her house and everything she owned destroyed or blown away. “My home is broken and everything is gone. What should I do?” she said.

It is always the people with the least who seem to suffer the most. Although it now appears that more people were evacuated than first realized, it was initially said there were 400,000. Now, that number seems to be around 1 million. While it is understood that the damage and amount of deaths could have been a lot worse, thousands of people still need help.

In 1999, the Odisha Cyclone, also known as Cyclone 05B, or the Paradip Cyclone, was the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Indian Ocean. The storm surged 26 feet, and 17,110km2  of crops were destroyed. 270,000 homes were destroyed and 1.67 million people were left homeless. Although about 10,000 people were killed, there were also 40 still missing, and 3,312 people were injured. Compared to the devastation then, the effects of Phalin were a lot less drastic and miserable.

The concern now, after the cyclone, is the flood alert, because of all the rainfall from the cyclone. Major rivers, Budhabalanga and Subarnarekha, have overflown and caused flooding in major districts. Although many people have been evacuated, many are still there, some living in temporary shelters. The storm left half a million people homeless, and wrecked communication and transportation. The Distress management workers, along with the navy and army, have been performing rescue missions and are dropping down food packets.

While natural disasters can’t be helped, the fact that a lot of potential damage and death was avoided is reassuring. Maybe, someday there will be enough technology and knowledge to avoid any death or disaster caused from these natural terrors.

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