United Nations and Indian officials credit a relatively low death toll to the mass evacuation of roughly 2.7 million people before Cyclone Fani hit India on Friday and Bangladesh over the weekend.
The Indian government's "zero casualty" policy for cyclones and the advance warning provided by the weather industry as a whole helped keep the number of people killed to roughly 60 people so far, though officials say the total may rise as communications are restored.
"They seem to have done a very good job in terms of minimizing the possibility for loss of life," Denis McClean, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said at a news briefing. "The almost pinpoint accuracy of the warnings, the early warnings from the IMD [India Meteorological Department] allowed them to conduct a very well-targeted evacuation plan, which resulted in 1.1 million people mainly moving to about 900 cyclone shelters."
Indian officials sent millions of text messages, broadcast warnings over public address systems and sent buses to help vulnerable people, bringing them to sturdy cyclone shelters that had been stocked with water and food, The New York Times reported.
An additional 1.6 million people in Bangladesh were evacuated before the storm, according to EcoWatch.com.
At least 42 people died in India after Powerful Cyclone Fani slammed onshore as one of the strongest cyclones to hit India within the last 20 years. Another 17 deaths have been reported in Bangladesh.
Fani made landfall between 8 and 10 a.m. Friday local time along the coast of the Indian state of Odisha, close to Puri. Fani's strength was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans when it barreled onshore.
"In the event of such a major calamity like this -- where Odisha was hit by close to a super-cyclone -- instead of being a tragedy of humongous proportion, we are in the process of restoring critical infrastructure. That is the transformation that Odisha has had," the state's top government official, Naveen Patnaik, said in a statement.
"The difference in lives saved is due to forecast improvement and people receiving warnings and acting on them," said AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers. "Storms like this in the past have killed hundreds of thousands of people. So even if the eventual death toll rises, it's likely less than 1 percent of what it would have been 30 years ago."
AccuWeather meteorologists alerted residents of northeastern India and Bangladesh of dangers from the cyclone a week before it made landfall, even prior to when Fani had formed.