BEHRAMPUR, India —
A storm surge is the big killer in such storms, though heavy rains are likely to compound the destruction. The Indian government said some 12 million people would be affected by the storm, including millions living far from the coast.
The 1999 cyclone — similar in strength to Phailin but covering a smaller area — threw out a 5.9-meter (19-foot) storm surge.
Several hours before the storm hit, about 200 villagers were jammed into a two-room, concrete schoolhouse in the village of Subalaya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the coast, while local emergency officials distributed food and water. The roads were almost empty, except for two trucks bringing more evacuees to the school. Children shivered in the rain as they stepped down from the vehicles, following women carrying bags jammed with possessions.
Many had fled low-lying villages for the shelter, but some left behind relatives who feared the storm could wipe out lifetimes of work.
"My son had to stay back with his wife because of the cattle and belongings," said 70-year-old Kaushalya Jena, weeping in fear inside the makeshift shelter. "I don't know if they are safe."
In Bhubaneshwar, the Orissa state capital, government workers and volunteers were putting together hundreds of thousands of food packages for relief camps.
The state's top official, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, appealed for calm Saturday.
"I request everyone to not panic. Please assist the government. Everyone from the village to the state headquarters have been put on alert," he told reporters.