Gopalpur : A red-and-white striped lighthouse standing on the popular beach here was the lone witness to the fury of the severe cyclone `Phailin` that virtually drove everyone in this tiny village to desert their homes for the safety of relief shelters.
The lighthouse, which functions under the Union Department of Lighthouses and Lightships, is a crucial navigational guide for numerous ships frequenting the ocean and has dopplers and radar of both the Navy and Coast Guard.
The wireless system at the lighthouse kept crackling all night yesterday with a small team of officials sending every bit of information about the weather and ocean currents to their headquarters in Kolkata and to the disaster response centre in Delhi as the cyclone made landfall here.
A team of four officials led by Junior Engineer (Civil), GK Pramod, manned the lighthouse the entire night as the world anxiously watched Phailin hit India`s east coast.
"We kept our headquarters in Kolkata informed about every development in the sea post 5pm.
"The period between 10.30 pm and 11 pm was the most ferocious as the wind and water battered us," Pramod said.
The lighthouse stands right on Gopalpur beach and houses two families of staff members who work round the clock in different shifts.
The structure of the lighthouse suffered minor damage while some trees on its premises were uprooted. A few sheds were also blown away in the strong winds.
The impact of the cyclone, however, did not deter the staff at the lighthouse from sticking to their posts even though that meant a threat not only to their lives but also for their children and families.
"If we also would have deserted the area, like civilians were asked to, who would have given a challenge to the cyclone.
"It was our job to keep the authorities posted about the developments," Pramod said.
The lighthouse, which is also a radio beacon station, is the most crucial communication centre in this coastal area.
"We stood tall at the lighthouse when it mattered the most. We have a few more days for our shift to finish and we are happy that the cyclone did not cause much havoc as it was considered to be very severe," another employee at the lighthouse said on condition of anonymity.