India Cyclones Toll More Than 250

News and Press Release
Originally published
BOMBAY, India (Reuter) - Cyclones and heavy rains that hit India on opposite coastlines this past week killed more than 260 people, officials and local news agencies said. It also left 120 fishermen missing Friday after being caught at sea.

''Today is crucial. If they (the fishermen) don't return by late tonight we'll presume they are either lost or dead,'' said Vijay Bandarkar, secretary of Maharashtra Matchimar Kruti Samiti, a fishermen's union.

The fishermen on board some 15 trawlers were missing after the the country's second cyclone in a week, with wind speeds of up to 60 mph struck the west coast states of Gujarat and Maharashtra Wednesday.

''There could be mechanical or engine failures, causing the boats to drift away,'' Bandarkar said in Bombay. ''And, the other possibility is that they may have been drowned.''

Grain traders said the tropical cyclone damaged some wheat cargoes and disrupted port loading operations in western India, causing a backlog in exports.

The death toll from the two cyclones -- the other lashed southeast India -- and heavy rains and winds has risen above 250, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

Last weekend a tropical cyclone lashed India's southeastern coast with 45 mph winds, causing up to $14 million in damage, meteorological officials said.

PTI said the cyclones and lashing rains and wind had killed 264 people in six western and southern states, including 93 in Andhra Pradesh state which bore the brunt of the first storm.

The cyclones coincided with the the start of the monsoon, which hit the southern coast of Kerala early this month. The Meteorological Department forecast a ninth consecutive plentiful monsoon this year. While the storms wrecked havoc in some parts of the country and left a trail of damage, they brought badly needed rain.

The Indian economy depends heavily on the bounty of the monsoons, which bring the seasonal rains essential for agriculture, irrigation and power production.

The southwest monsoon struck the southern state of Kerala on June 3, and was expected to have covered the entire country by mid-July. Generally the rains taper off in September.

Analysts and government officials said the cyclones and rains would benefit many crops. Standing crops such as foodgrains and oilseeds were not affected by the storms, although sowing in some areas could be delayed, they said.

Economist Y. K. Alagh said ''as far as agriculture is concerned, it (the rain) recharges the tanks, retains moisture and there is less dependence on irrigation."

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