India made biggest ever evacuation ahead of cyclone

NEW DELHI: India completed its biggest ever evacuation ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Phailin, the national disaster agency told AFP on Sunday, with about a million people moved from their homes.

“We were preparing for a super cyclone, but Phailin did not turn into a super cyclone,” spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Tripti Parule, said by phone.

“The last biggest evacuation in India’s recorded history was in Andhra Pradesh in 1990 (when another cyclone struck) — and this is now much bigger.”

The state of Orissa’s top rescue official said 860,000 people moved before the cyclone made landfall on Saturday evening, while at least another 100,000 were evacuated further south in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The updated figures were double the estimates given on Saturday.

The two previous biggest evacuations according to the NDMA were in 1990 when an estimated 650,000 were shifted in Andhra Pradesh for the cyclone and 550,000 in 2009 for flooding in the same state.

“We are on the whole quite satisfied with the type of evacuation that was done,” vice-president of the NDMA Marri Shashidhar Reddy told television reporters on Sunday.

In Gopalpur, where the eye of the storm struck, “almost 90-95 percent of people have been evacuated”, he added.

The NDMA and other relief agencies came under severe criticism in June for their response to mass flooding in the Himalayas where almost 6,000 people perished.