“The trees and the buildings could not be saved, but the people have been evacuated, so the human toll was contained so far,” said Naresh Sharma, a commander with the Indian Central Reserve Police Force.
For the people living along the coast, many of whom live as subsistence farmers in mud-and-thatch huts, the economic toll will be immense.
Heavy rains and surging seawater destroyed more than 1.23 million acres of crops worth an estimated $395 million, according to Orissa’s disaster minister, S.N. Patro.
British Prime Minister David Cameron described the damage as “shocking,” and said in a Twitter message that Britain would do “what it can to help.”
With some of the world’s warmest waters, the Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot, and 27 of the 35 deadliest known storms in history — including the 1999 cyclone — have come through the Bay of Bengal and landed in either India or Bangladesh.