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A truck is seen submerged in the water after Cyclone Phailin hit Brahmapur town in Ganjam district in the eastern Indian state of Orissa October 13, 2013. India's strongest storm in 14 years left a trail of destruction along the country's east coast on Sunday, but little loss of life was reported after close to a million people took refuge in shelters. Cyclone Phailin was expected to dissipate within 36 hours, losing momentum as it headed inland after making landfall on Saturday from the Bay of Bengal, bringing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph) to rip up homes and tear down trees.

​Cyclone Phailin hits millions; 23 dead, lakhs of homes damaged

As meteorologists warned last week of a monster storm ploughing towards India's east coast, the country's disaster preparedness teams snapped into action, pre-positioning emergency response teams and supplies, and evacuating nearly a million people - ultimately saving countless lives. The impressive show of disaster preparedness is thanks in large part to the lessons learnt after a powerful cyclone hit the country and killed 10,000 people in 1999, and the plans implemented in the years since, say aid workers and disaster experts. "Credit is due to those who have been involved in efforts to reduce the scale of vulnerability to disasters across India," said Tom Mitchell, head of climate change at the Overseas Development Institute in London. "The low loss of life, following the strongest storm ever measured in the Bay of Bengal, would almost certainly not have been possible without learning lessons from previous cyclones and tsunamis that have hit this coastline." Cyclone Phailin, India's fiercest storm in 14 years, smashed into the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states over the weekend, flooded swathes of farmland and ripped apart tens of thousands of mud-and-thatch homes.