All you need to know about 'superstorm' Cyclone Phailin

The current  situation:

The severe cyclonic storm ‘Phailin‘ over the Bay of Bengal has gained strength and intensified further as it moved towards Odisha and Andhra Pradesh coast, officials said on Friday

The storm over east central Bay of Bengal lay centered about 590 km south-southeast of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district and 600 km southeast of Gopalpur in Ganjam district, SC Sahu, director of Bhubaneswar meteorological centre told IANS.

It would move northwestwards and cross north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha coast between Kalingapatnam and Paradip, close to Gopalpur (Odisha) by Saturday evening as a very severe cyclonic storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 205-215 kmph, he said.

The state government said it was making adequate preparation to deal with the disaster that expects to cause large scale devastation mostly in the state’s coastal southern districts. “We had a number of reviews about the impending cyclone. The government is fully prepared,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters.

Why it's called cyclone Phailin:

Phailin is the Thai word for the sapphire stone, and according to the procedure of naming tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean it was turn of a name suggested by Thailand in the list of assigned names. The next cyclone in the region will be called Helen, a name from the list of cyclone names given by Bangladesh.

 All you need to know about superstorm Cyclone Phailin

Representational image. PTI

What's the difference between a cyclone and a typhoon? Or a hurricane?

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) and in the Pacific east of the International Date Line. Typhoons are tropical cyclones over the northern Pacific west of the Date Line. Tropical cyclones in the South Pacific and over the Indian Ocean are just called cyclones.

A storm is named when it reaches tropical storm strength with winds of 39 mph, and becomes a hurricane or typhoon when its wind speed reaches 74 mph.

What precautions are being taken:

“We had a number of reviews about the impending cyclone. The government is fully prepared,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters.

While more than 5,000 families from the low lying area of the beach town of Puri have already been moved to safer places, the authorities plan to move more than 30,000 others later in the day. In Ganjam district, which is expected to be worst hit as the cyclone is likely to make land fall near its Gopalpur town, the authorities have started preparation to move at least 100,000 families from the low lying area to safer places like cyclone shelters, school buildings and other buildings.

“We plan to shift about 100,000 families in Ganjam district. They would be moved to safer places either by today (Friday) evening or by tomorrow (Saturday) morning,” Special Relief Commissioner PK Mohapatra told IANS.

On the map:

Reactions/Information from social media:

How cyclone Phailin compares to other natural disasters:

The weather office may be underestimating the severity of a cyclone which is hurtling towards the east coast, a meteorologist warned on Friday, adding that it could be worse than Hurricane Katrina which devastated parts of the United States in 2005.

"Phailin is already worse than what the IMD is forecasting. A recent satellite estimate put Phailin's current intensity on par with 2005's Hurricane Katrina in the United States," said Eric Holthaus, meteorologist for Quartz, a U.S.-based online magazine which covers global economy-related issues.

"Everything I know as a meteorologist tells me this is the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane - among the strongest on earth in 2013. That would mean Phailin could be the strongest cyclone ever measured in the Indian Ocean."

Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf coast on August 29, 2005, killing more than 1,800 people, driving 2.16 million from their homes and causing $75 billion of damage.

Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common at this time of year, often causing deaths, mass evacuations of coastal villages, power and telecoms disruptions and widespread damage to crops and property in eastern India and Bangladesh.

Some experts have compared Phailin with a super cyclone in 1999 that killed 10,000 people when it battered the coast of Odisha with wind speeds reaching 300 km per hour (185 mph).

Weather authorities were reluctant to make comparisons with Katrina and the 1999 cyclone, dismissing reports that Phailin is half the size of India.

With inputs from Agencies

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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2013 22:56:56 IST