BEHRAMPUR, India (AP):The people of India are waking today to count the damage after a massive, powerful cyclone hammered its eastern coastline with heavy rains and destructive winds yesterday. Already, five persons have been reported dead.
Hundreds of thousands of people living in the region moved inland and took shelter, hoping to ride out the dangerous storm.
Roads were all but empty as high waves lashed the coastline of Orissa state, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Phailin.
By mid-afternoon yesterday, wind gusts were so strong that they could blow over grown men. Along the coast, seawater was pushing inland, swamping villages where many people survive as subsistence farmers in mud and thatch huts.
As the cyclone swept across the Bay of Bengal towards the Indian coast, satellite images showed its spinning tails covering an area larger than France.
In Behrampur, a town about 10 kilometres (7 miles) inland from where the eye of the storm was expected to hit, the sky blackened quickly around the time of landfall, with heavy winds and rains pelting the empty streets.
Estimates of the storm's power had dropped slightly, with the United States Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii showing maximum sustained winds of about 240 kilometres per hour (kph) or 150 miles per hour, with gusts up to 296 kph (184 mph).
By last Friday evening, some 420,000 people had been moved to higher ground or shelters in Orissa, and 100,000 more in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.