Cyclone Phailin, a very severe cyclonic storm, said to be the second strongest after the disastrous super-cyclone of 1999, today struck the Odisha coast, bringing in its wake torrential rains and wind speeds of over 200 kmph in the state and in the neighbouring north coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Darkness enveloped wide swathes of the coastal districts of Odisha, especially Ganjam, whose Gopalpur-on-sea was the entry point for Cyclone Phailin uprooting trees and electric poles.
People were forced to remain indoors by the pounding rains and vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt.
Heavy to very heavy rainfall were also widespread in the districts of Gajapati, Khurda, Puri, Jagatsinghpur, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Bhadrak and Kendrapara in coastal region besides state capital Bhubaneshwar.
However, the extent of damage wreaked by the Cyclone Phailin was not immediately available. Three people were killed in Odisha in the heavy rains ahead of the storm.
Cyclone Phailin made its landfall "very close to Gopalpur town" around 9 pm and has just started crossing the coast in Odisha, IMD Director General L S Rathore told reporters in New Delhi just a little later.
"Still there is scope the speed to go up as the Cyclone Phailin will remain very severe for six hours. Post landfall, there will be no large change in the intensity," he said, adding that for another 12 to 24 hours, there will be moderate rains in large parts of east India.
He denied that Cyclone Phailin was a super cyclone.
Nearly six lakh people were evacuated, including 4.50 lakh in Odisha and over one lakh in Andhra Pradesh.
Army, IAF, Navy, CRPF and National Disaster Response Force were positioned in areas vulnerable to the Cyclone Phailin.
All trains between Howrah and Visakhapatnam have been suspended and power supply switched off along the Odisha coastline, and three coastal districts in Andhra Pradesh as a precautionary measure.
Flights and trains from Odisha capital Bhubaneshwar have also been suspended.
At least 10 flights of Air India, Indigo and Jet Airways scheduled to arrive or take off from the airport here remained cancelled, director of Biju Patnaik International Airport Sarad Kumar said.
This is the strongest since the one in