Indians say cyclone evacuation kept them alive
PODAMPETTA, INDIA (AP) - Ms Agya Amma surveyed the pile of twisted wood and shredded thatch that was her home in this seaside Indian village. Like most everything else in Podampetta, it was all but swept away when Cyclone Phailin roared in off the Bay of Bengal with a massive storm surge and winds topping 200 kilometers per hour.
Unlike past storms that have lashed India's eastern coast, however, Phailin did not extract a heavy human toll, thanks to the evacuation of nearly 1 million people in one of India's poorest regions. By Monday, only 25 people had been reported killed, although tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, and miles of coastline swamped.
"If we had stayed here, everyone in the village would be dead," said Ms Amma, a 55-year-old fisherwoman. "I consider myself lucky to be alive." The apparently successful evacuation effort was earning rare praise for a country known for large-scale disasters that have caused high death tolls in the past. But Phailin still dealt its share of misery, as hundreds of thousands of coastal residents found themselves huddling in shelters, their homes flattened and crops destroyed by the most powerful storm to hit India in more than a decade.
India began evacuating coastal residents at least four days before the cyclone hit. Ms Amma and others from her tiny Podampetta village walked 1.5 kilometers to the nearest government shelter and spent two nights waiting out the storm.