India was today beginning to sort through miles of wreckage after the Cyclone Phailin roared ashore, flooding towns and villages and destroying tens of thousands of homes.

But more than 20 hours after the strongest storm to hit India in more than a decade made landfall in eastern Orissa state, officials said they knew of only 17 fatalities – far less than many feared.

Most of the deaths came from falling branches or collapsing buildings in the rains ahead of the 125 mph cyclone, but it initially appears that the evacuation of almost 1million people saved many lives.

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Taken down: Hundreds of people look at a damaged structure after Cyclone Phailin hit Narayangonj, Bangladesh

Taken down: Hundreds of people look at a damaged structure after Cyclone Phailin hit Narayangonj, Bangladesh

 

 
Open-mouthed: Local villagers remove fallen trees from a Goddess Kali temple at Gopalpur Junction in India

Open-mouthed: Local villagers remove fallen trees from a Goddess Kali temple at Gopalpur Junction in India

 

 
Blocked road: A man makes his way with his bicycle through uprooted trees fallen during Cyclone Phailin on a road in Berhampur, India

Blocked road: A man makes his way with his bicycle through uprooted trees fallen during Cyclone Phailin on a road in Berhampur, India

Lashed: Waves crash onto the shore at a fishing harbour in Visakhapatnam district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh

Lashed: Waves crash onto the shore at a fishing harbour in Visakhapatnam district in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh

 

 
Damage: An Indian man salvages a table stuck in uprooted trees fallen during Cyclone Phailin on a road in Berhampur, India

Damage: An Indian man salvages a table stuck in uprooted trees fallen during Cyclone Phailin on a road in Berhampur, India

 

 

 

 
Danger: This satellite image obtained from the US Naval Research Laboratory shows Tropical Cyclone Phailin over the Bay of Bengal

Danger: This satellite image obtained from the US Naval Research Laboratory shows Tropical Cyclone Phailin over the Bay of Bengal

Storms typically lose much of their force when they hit land, where there is less heat-trapping moisture feeding energy into the storm.

In Behrampur, about 7 miles inland from where the eye of the cyclone struck, there were no reports of deaths early this morning.

But the storm had wrought havoc on the small town, with the wind shattering windows, blowing down trees and electrical poles and terrifying residents.

In the state capital of Bhubaneshwar, billboards and traffic lights had fallen across the city and trees were uprooted, but early reports indicated the state capital escaped major damage.

‘The 1999 storm was very big, but this was not as strong at least in Bhubaneshwar,’ said Upendra Malik, a city employee leading a crew working with axes and coils of heavy rope to clear roads of fallen trees and branches.

‘We’ve just started to assess the damage and coastal areas will have fared worse.’

More than 600,000 people were evacuated from the coast ahead of the storm, officials say, including more than a half-million in Orissa state, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, and 100,000 in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Officials in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh state had been stockpiling emergency food supplies and setting up shelters.

The Indian military put some of its forces on alert, with trucks, transport planes and helicopters at the ready for relief operations. 

 
 

 

Course: A map locating the cyclone's projected path

Course: A map locating the cyclone’s projected path

L.S. Rathore, the head of the Indian Meteorological Department, had predicted a storm surge of 10 to 11.5ft, but several US experts had predicted that a much higher wall of water would blast ashore.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of private US weather firm Weather Bell predicted that, even in the best-case scenario, there would be a surge of 20 to 30ft. The height of the surge, though, is unclear.

A storm surge is the big killer in such storms, though heavy rains are likely to compound the destruction.

The Indian government said some 12million people would be affected by the storm, though that figure included millions living far from the coast.

Route: The cyclone has made its way from the sea and will continue well into the mainland, pictured

Route: The cyclone has made its way from the sea and will continue well into the mainland, pictured

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron today said the UK would do what it could to help ease the ‘shocking’ devastation caused in India by Cyclone Phailin.

Mr Cameron tweeted: ‘The devastation caused by Cyclone #Phailin is shocking. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected. The UK will do what it can to help’

Save the Children said it was working with the Indian government and partners to assess the needs of children. The charity has emergency hygiene and food kits for families in most need.

Devendra Tak, a spokesman in Puri, said: ‘There are no reports of casualties so far in the area, which is a good indicator although it is still early, so it’s difficult to know the full extent of the damage.’

Typhoon Nari leaves 13 dead and destroys thousands of homes in the Philippines

A typhoon blew out of the Philippines today after leaving 13 people dead, but officials remained on alert as another storm was spotted in the Pacific.

Typhoon Nari also flooded farmlands and destroyed thousands of houses in provinces north of Manila before blowing away into the South China Sea.

Chinese authorities said about 27,000 fishing boats had been called back to port, and heavy rains associated with the storm were expected to hit parts of southern China tomorrow.

In San Miguel town in the Philippines’ Bulacan province, the sun shone on villages where floodwaters that reached up to roof-level had receded.

This was allowing residents to return from emergency shelters to clean up, wash muddied belongings and repair damaged houses.

Eduardo del Rosario, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency, said police officers, military personnel and local officials would remain on alert after forecasters spotted another typhoon, named Wipha, more than 807 miles east of the northern Philippines.

Forecasters said the new typhoon would probably spare the country if it does not veer away from its current course. Nari was the 19th of more than 20 storms expected to batter the Philippines this year.

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