In the eye of the storm

In the eye of the storm

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Holding just a flimsy-looking umbrella, a shepherd stands with his flock on the day that India’s biggest storm in well over a decade bore down on the country’s east coast.

Cyclone Phailin made landfall from the Bay of Bengal, bringing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph), 3 metre-high tidal waves and thrashing rains to Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states. Yet despite the blasting conditions, thanks to mass evacuations the death toll remained low.

. ICHAPURAM, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A girl runs for shelter from the heavy rains brought by the cyclone, which closed in on October 12, threatening to cut a wide swathe of devastation through farmland and fishing hamlets.

. VISAKHAPATNAM, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

As rain and wind came in to lash the east coast, India was braced for the worst. A monster storm that hit the same region 14 years ago had killed 10,000 people.

This time, however, the number of casualties was comparatively small. Two days after the cyclone struck, the death toll was counted at 21.

. ODISHA, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

According to aid officials, the loss of life was minimised by the construction of hundreds of shelters since the region's last big cyclone, as well as warnings which started five days before the storm and mass evacuations - often by force.

More than 1 million people were evacuated from their homes in the eastern states affected by the storm.

Among those who left their houses to take refuge were these two women, pictured sheltering in a school compound.

. SUNAPUR, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Authorities now face the challenge of ensuring survivors, like this woman waiting to board a boat and return to her village, get adequate support.

"There are a lot of displaced people, and they are very unlikely to return home over the next few days or week," said Unni Krishnan, head of emergencies at Plan International. "There are key challenges ahead, including hygiene, water and sanitation for displaced families."

. PURI, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

The cyclone's powerful winds ripped apart hundreds of thousands of mud-and-thatch houses, and storm surges and heavy rains submerged large areas of farmland.

These fishermen's houses, tattered and torn apart, are just some of the properties destroyed by the storm.

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Slideshow

A man sits outside his house as he waits to be evacuated to a place where he can shelter from the cyclone.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man sits outside his house as he waits to be evacuated to a place where he can shelter from the cyclone.

Another man waits to be evacuated as he stands next to his fishing nets.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Another man waits to be evacuated as he stands next to his fishing nets.

A family carry their belongings as they move to find safety from the storm.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A family carry their belongings as they move to find safety from the storm.

A man carries his possessions as he walks to find shelter.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man carries his possessions as he walks to find shelter.

A man tries to avoid a broken electricity cable as he clings onto an auto rickshaw driving to safety.
. ICHAPURAM, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man tries to avoid a broken electricity cable as he clings onto an auto rickshaw driving to safety.

A girl looks out of the window of a bus heading towards a relief camp.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A girl looks out of the window of a bus heading towards a relief camp.

Fishermen tie their boat along the shore before leaving for a safer refuge.
. DONKURU, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Fishermen tie their boat along the shore before leaving for a safer refuge.

Waves crash onto the shore at a fishing harbour in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.
. Visakhapatnam, India. REUTERS/R Narendra

Waves crash onto the shore at a fishing harbour in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh.

A man and his son fix their overturned boat in the aftermath of the cyclone.
. GOPALPUR, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man and his son fix their overturned boat in the aftermath of the cyclone.

A truck is submerged in the water after the storm.
. BRAHMAPUR, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A truck is submerged in the water after the storm.

A lorry lies on its side as a man rides by on his motorbike.
. GOPALPUR, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A lorry lies on its side as a man rides by on his motorbike.

Villagers return to their homes after the cyclone.
. GIRISOLA, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Villagers return to their homes after the cyclone.

A building is left in ruins.
. Bhubaneswar, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A building is left in ruins.

Fisherwomen and a young girl stand in front of a badly damaged house.
. PURI, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Fisherwomen and a young girl stand in front of a badly damaged house.

A woman stands outside the remains of her home.
. GOPALPUR, India. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

A woman stands outside the remains of her home.

Another woman stands next to mud piled up inside her house.
. GOPALPUR, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Another woman stands next to mud piled up inside her house.

Two women carry pieces of temporary roofing to help rebuild their homes.
. ARJYAPALLI, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Two women carry pieces of temporary roofing to help rebuild their homes.

A couple stands next to what is left of their house.
. ARJYAPALLI, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A couple stands next to what is left of their house.

Footprints are left in the mud inside a house hit by the storm.
. SUNAPUR, India. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Footprints are left in the mud inside a house hit by the storm.