Deaths were suprisingly few with seven confirmed yesterday. 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 125mph to wreck homes and throw down trees in the path of fleeing inhabitants.
Authorities in the state of Odisha said all seven were killed as winds whipped the coast and the storm blasted in, at least four by falling trees and one when the walls of her mud house collapsed.
The cyclone was one of three major storms over Asia yesterday. The smaller Typhoon Nari was approaching Vietnam and Typhoon Wipha loomed over the Pacific.
At least 873,000 people in Odisha and adjacent Andhra Pradesh spent the night in shelters, some of which had been built after a 1999 storm killed 10,000 in the same area.
Others sought safety in schools or temples, in an exercise disaster management officials called one of India's largest evacuations.
"We saved lives by putting them in shelters in time," said Odisha's special relief commissioner, JK Mohapatra.
There had been concern for 18 fishermen out at sea when the cyclone bore down, but police said all had returned.
Further north-east, port officials said they feared a Panama- registered cargo ship, the MV Bingo, carrying 8000 tonnes of iron ore with a 17 Chinese and an Indonesian crew member, had sunk on Saturday as the storm raged across the Bay of Bengal.
The crew, however, left the ship in a lifeboat around 4pm on Saturday and radio contact had been maintained.
On land, lorry driver Jayaram Yadav, transporting cars halfway across India, huddled in the cab of his 28-ton vehicle on Saturday night as the wind howled around him. "I was just thinking: it's going to topple over - and then it did," said Mr Yadav, who survived unscathed as his cargo of eight vehicles was scattered across a coastal highway.
Television broadcasted images of cars flipped on their sides and streets strewn with debris in the silk-producing city of Brahmapur, one of the worst-hit areas.
Winds slowed to 56mph early yesterday and rain eased. But large swathes of Odisha, including its capital, Bhubaneswar, were without electricity for a second day after the storm tore down power cables.
Soldiers and rescue workers in helicopters, boats and lorries fanned out, but officials sounded confident a major disaster had been avoided. Road were expected to be re-opened quickly and electricity restored in the majority of districts.
People were going back to their homes and, where their homes had been devastated, they were expected to stay in relief camps where they would be provided with food.
The damage was less than had been feared in Mogadhalupadu, a fishing village in Andhra Pradesh, where some people had refused to leave their boats and nets, and seawater had surged into huts near the beach.
"People have come back to the village now," said village spokesman Jagdesh Dasari, adding that light rain followed the drop-off in gusty winds.
Operations at Paradip port in Odisha, which handles coal, crude oil and iron ore, have been halted since Friday. All vessels were ordered to leave the port.
The storm landed far north of India's largest gas field, the D6 natural gas block in the Cauvery Basin further down the east coast, operated by Reliance Industries.