BHUBANESWAR, India - Cyclone Phailin left a trail of destruction along India's east coast and at least seven people dead Sunday, 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 in Orissa where the eye of Phailin came ashore packing winds of 200 kilometres an hour (125 miles per hour), was still without power and communications were down.
Roads strewn with fallen trees were at least open, as emergency services rushed to reach people living there.
Raj Kishor Muduli, a delivery driver who lives just outside Orissa's 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 (the) storm would be and to be on guard."
Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, Orissa's special relief commissioner, said that seven people were known to have died.
"We can confirm seven deaths in Orissa, mostly due to falling branches from trees," he told AFP in Bhubaneswar.
"Our rescue workers and state officials are working tirelessly to sort things out.
"Electricity and water will be restored everywhere by this evening, except for the district of Ganjam, which has been very badly affected. We are coming up with a separate plan to address the situation in Ganjam."