BHUBANESWAR, India - Cyclone Phailin left a trail of destruction along India's east coast Sunday and up to seven people dead after the biggest evacuation in the country's history helped minimise casualties.
As emergency teams began assessing damage from the country's biggest cyclone in 14 years, a massive relief effort went into full swing to distribute food to an estimated one million evacuees, clear roads and help the injured.
Most of the local population spent the night huddled in shelters and public buildings as deafening winds flattened flimsy homes, uprooted trees and sent glass and asbestos strips flying through the air.
The worst affected area around the town of Gopalpur, where the eye of Phailin packing winds of 200 kilometres an hour (125 miles per hour) came ashore, remained cut off with emergency services rushing to reach there.
Raj Kishor Muduli, a delivery driver who lives just outside state capital Bhubaneswar, said the whole of his village had spent the night hunkering down in a communal shelter.
"We were all afraid, the whole village was afraid, we didn't know how strong the winds would be," the 43-year-old told AFP in the morning when the winds had died down and heavy overnight rainfall had ceased.
"Everyone was awake the whole night to see what the size of storm would be and to be on guard."
AFP journalists in the cyclone zone said electricity was down in large parts of Orissa and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh while queues formed outside petrol stations with fuel rationed to five litres per vehicle.
High-sided trucks lying on their sides were witness to the strength of the winds on the main highway south of Gopalpur which was littered with uprooted trees and other debris.