Indian cyclone abates after killing more than 120

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Syed Amin Jafri

HYDERABAD, India, June 17 (Reuter) - A tropical cyclone which killed more than 120 people in southern India and caused millions of dollars in damage has petered out, authorities said on Monday.

"It is no longer a cyclone," meteorological department official R.R. Kelkar said. "It is now more a rain-generating system, with no damage potential like a cyclone."

The storm which struck the southeastern coast on Sunday from the Bay of Bengal was moving northward into Madhya Pradesh and Orissa states, bringing heavy rain but little wind, authorities said.

The dead were spread across three states -- Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka -- and more than 190 people, mostly fishermen, were reported missing.

Andhra Pradesh, which is some 1,500 km (900 miles) from the Indian capital New Delhi, bore the brunt of the cyclone, called Tropical Cyclone 03B that packed winds of 70 kph (45 mph) when it hit the coast on Sunday.

Some 65 people were killed in the southeastern state, most by flash floods.

The state government said preliminary estimates put damage at up to one billion rupees ($30 million).

State relief commissioner Hari Shankar Brahma said there was some damage to plantation crops such as bananas, coconuts and mangoes, but no estimate was yet available.

"The rain stopped yesterday," Brahma told Reuters in the Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad. "Life is getting back to normal."

Three people died on Sunday when a packed boat in which they were travelling capsized in a flooded river in Andhra Pradesh, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. Earlier the news agency had said at least 50 were feared drowned.

During the three-day downpour which the cyclone brought, as much as 120 cm (30 in) of rain fell in Andhra Pradesh, including 40 cm (15 in) in four hours in Madanapalle town in Chittoor district where 29 people died, mostly by flash floods.

Parts of Madanapalle were still under 20 feet (six metres) of water on Monday, authorities said. Emergency workers opened two relief camps for 1,500 displaced citizens of Madanapalle.

"The town presented a pathetic scene," Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said after visiting the site.

The state government offered 100,000 rupees ($3,000) to the families of victims and 1,000 rupees ($30) to families whose houses were destroyed.

The coast of Andhra Pradesh is particularly prone to cyclones. About 10,000 people were killed in 1977 when tidal waves swept 12 km (7.5 miles) inland. In 1990, nearly 1,000 were killed when a cyclone with winds of up to 250 kph (155 mph) struck the coast.

Authorities said the latest cyclone generated lower winds, and a disaster plan had been put into place to evacuate more than 3,000 residents of threatened areas to shelters.

Copyright (c) 1996 Reuters

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