Cyclone Phailin has become a larger version of Hurricane Sandy, a huge storm packing winds of 160 miles per hour, striking at one of the most heavily populate low-lying areas on Earth. The cyclone has the potential to cause massive damage, but so far barely 70,000 people of the millions in its path have fled the region. Twenty-six of the thirty-five most deadly storms in history have struck the Bay of Bengal. It was believed on Friday morning that it would lose some strength before going ashore, but it unexpectedly increased in power, very much as Hurricane Sandy did, and for the same reason: the waters the storm is crossing are warmer than normal.
“We are prepared for the worst,” Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, special relief commissioner of Odisha, claimed. But ‘the worst’ is going to involve vast damage to infrastructure and communications, as well as flooding, over a densely populated region that is, for the most part, unprepared for a storm on this scale.
The last storm on this scale that struck the area left 9,000 dead in 1999 and inflicted vast damage.