DHAKA/BHUBANESWAR (India) • The strongest cyclone to hit India in five years killed at least 12 people in eastern Odisha state before swinging north-eastwards into Bangladesh yesterday, where four more people died although more than a million had been moved to safety.
After it made landfall early on Friday, tropical cyclone Fani lost some of its power and was downgraded to a "Deep Depression" by the Indian Meteorological Department as the storm moved inland over Bangladesh.
"The fear of a major disaster is mostly over as it has weakened," Mr Shamsuddin Ahmed, director of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department, told reporters.
A storm surge still breached embankments to submerge dozens of villages on Bangladesh's low-lying coast, a disaster ministry official in Dhaka said.
About 1.2 million people living in the most vulnerable districts in Bangladesh have been moved to some 4,000 shelters.
The official said the storm had damaged more than 500 houses. It destroyed several houses in the Noakhali district, where a two-year-old child and a 12-year-old girl were killed and about 30 people injured, local official Tanmoy Das said.
Bangladesh's Junior Disaster Minister Enamur Rahman told reporters that at least four people had been killed and 63 injured.
In India, the authorities were assessing damage left behind by Fani, which had spent days building up its power over the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal before tearing into the states of Odisha and West Bengal.
Indian media reported that at least 12 people had died across Odisha, with most deaths caused by falling trees. A mass evacuation of 1.2 million people in the 24 hours before the tropical cyclone made landfall helped to avert a greater loss of life.
"Energy infrastructure has been completely destroyed," Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said.
The seaside temple town of Puri, which lay directly in the path of Fani, suffered extensive damage, as wind gusts of up to 200kmh tore off tin roofs, snapped power lines and uprooted trees on Friday.
"Destruction is unimaginable... Puri is devastated," Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi said, adding that 116 people were reported injured across the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in the midst of a general election, said in a tweet that he would visit Odisha tomorrow.
Bhubaneswar airport suffered considerable damage, but was set to reopen yesterday, India's aviation ministry said.
Neighbouring West Bengal state escaped substantial damage, but the authorities moved nearly 45,000 people to safer locations.
The cyclone season in the Bay of Bengal can last from April to December.
The United Nations agency for disaster reduction commended the Indian Meteorological Department's "almost pinpoint accuracy" of early warnings that helped the authorities conduct a well-targeted evacuation plan and minimise the loss of life as the severe storm hit Odisha, according to the Indian Express daily.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS