On this day in 1999, a powerful cyclone in the Indian Ocean suddenly intensifies to the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. The next day it struck India, killing more than 10,000 people. It was the deadliest storm in the Indian Ocean since a 1991 storm that killed more than 130,000 people.
Cyclone 05B, as it was designated by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, began as a tropical disturbance in the South China Sea. When it reached the Andaman Sea on October 24 it became a tropical depression and struck the Malay Peninsula the following day. The storm attained cyclone status on October 27 in the Bay of Bengal and then continued to strengthen as it bore down on the northeast coast of India.
Winds were recorded at 155 miles per hour when 05B struck the state of Orissa in India. The cyclone stalled just inland near the city of Bhubaneswar and then drifted back south into the bay. On October 31, it again hit the coast. While the storm stayed near the coast over the next several days, torrential rains caused severe flooding. About 6,600 square miles of crops were destroyed and reports estimated that 406,000 head of livestock were killed by the cyclone. Asim Vaishan, chief administrator of Baleshwar, declared it to be “the worst flooding in 100 years.”
The deadliest aspect of 05B was a storm surge that came nine miles inland in some places. Officials estimated that in excess of 9,800 people perished. Several thousand more people were reported missing and were presumed dead. More than 1 million people lost their homes to the cyclone.
Cyclone 05B came only two weeks after another large storm hit the same area. That storm killed more than 70 people and left 40,000 homeless.