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INDIA CYCLONE 3rd UPD

Weather forecasters in India say the country has seen the worst of Cyclone Phailin.

Indian Metrological Department Director General L.S. Rathore said Sunday military rescue helicopters will fly to the cyclone-affected east coast mid-day, after the winds have died down.

Cyclone Phailin came ashore late Saturday with winds of over 200 kilometers per hour. More than 10 million people live in the path of the storm in Orissa and neighboring Andhra Pradesh. Rathore said Andhra Pradesh state is now completely out of danger.

At least seven deaths have been reported so far and according to local reports, the death toll is likely to rise.

The Times of India reports that deaths were caused by falling trees on the local people before the cyclone made a landfall.

The evacuation of nearly a million people ahead of the cyclone is believed to have been a factor in minimizing casualties.

Rathore said Phailin will gradually weaken into a deep depression by Sunday evening. The cyclone will still cause heavy rains and winds until late Monday as it moves northwest into the interior areas of Orissa and Chhattisgarh states.

Phailin's high winds cut power and communication, uprooted trees, damaged coastal homes and destroyed crops.



In a Saturday briefing, Disaster Management Commissioner T. Radha said huts and older buildings in the storm's path could not withstand its winds. He also said low-lying areas would likely be submerged.

The Indian army, navy and air force have been deployed to assist with rescue and recovery efforts following Cyclone Phailin, which had been predicted to be one of the country's most powerful storms on record.

Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common this time of year, frequently wreaking havoc and causing mass deaths in coastal India and Bangladesh. A cyclone hit Orissa state in 1999, killing at least 10,000 people.

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