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17 Killed by Cyclone in India

  • VOA News

Indian people watch high tide waves as they stand at the Bay of Bengal coast in Vishakhapatnam, India, Oct. 12, 2013.
Residents along India's east coast who fled to shelters for safety against India's strongest cyclone in 14 years began returning to their destroyed homes and businesses Monday.

Cyclone Phailin came ashore late Saturday with winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour. More than 10 million people live in the path of the storm in Orissa and neighboring Andhra Pradesh.

Evacuating nearly a million people before the cyclone struck is believed to have helped minimize casualties. Officials say they knew of 17 fatalities, but warned the death toll may rise.

"Damage to property is extensive, but few lives have been lost," a top police officer in the Orrisa district worst hit by the cyclone said.

The cyclone has destroyed hundred of millions of dollars' worth of crops and its high winds cut power and communication, uprooted trees, and damaged coastal homes.

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.