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Death toll hits 22 from deadly India cyclone

Schools remained shut, electricity lines were down and communication systems were only partially working in the port city of Visakhapatnam in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, worst affected by the cyclonic winds which slammed into the coast at 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour Sunday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who surveyed cyclone-hit areas of the state from the air Tuesday, told reporters clever use of technology by India’s weather office helped save lives.

“In this cyclone, the weather department used (forecasting) technology very well” to assist authorities in getting ready for the storm, said Modi in Visakhapatnam.

Mass evacuations before the onset of the cyclone helped avert a much larger death toll, officials said.

While Cyclone Phailin killed at least 18 people in Orissa last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in the state in a cyclone in 1999.

Residents in parts of Visakhapatnam jostled and shoved as relief trucks distributed food packets and water bottles.

Essential goods were in short supply as many roads were impassable and bus, train and flights were suspended.

“We feel we’re travelling back in time… so many commodities we take for granted are lost now — it will take some time to recover,” a young woman told CNN-IBN television network.

Some 250,000 people from Andhra Pradesh and thousands more in neighbouring Orissa were affected by the storm, many of them poor fishermen and farmers.

Over 40 National Disaster Response Force teams were engaged in rescue efforts, along with the navy and dozens of divers.

Large swathes of crops were damaged and livestock was killed by raging winds accompanied by torrential rains.

P.K. Mohapatra, Orissa’s special relief commissioner, told AFP most of those who sought refuge in relief centres had returned home apart from a few thousand whose mud houses were destroyed.

Modi announced a 10-billion-rupee ($163 million) interim relief package for Andhra Pradesh state and an additional 200,000 rupees ($3,269) for every family who lost a member in the cyclone.

A family of three including a child, died Tuesday in Madhya Pradesh state when their house collapsed under heavy rain brought by Hudhud as it moved towards central India.

India’s east coast and neighbouring Bangladesh are often lashed by severe storms between April and November that cause deaths and massive property damage. -AFP



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