Relief reaches India's battered east coast

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Himangshu Watts

PARADIP, India, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Trains carrying medical supplies and navy ships loaded with food headed on Monday for India's east coast where officials say a cyclone may have killed thousands and left over a million homeless.

Media reports said up to 3,000 people may have died in the disaster, but no official death toll or assessment of the damage was available because communication links were still scant.

The government said in a statement at least two million people in almost 2,000 villages had been affected by the storm.

Navy ships bearing food, candles, clothes and other relief materials were heading towards Paradip port in the eastern state of Orissa, the statement said.

The chairman of Paradip port, S. Mohapatra, told Reuters more than 40 bodies had been found in the port area and many fishing trawlers from southern Andhra Pradesh state had sunk.

"We have found 41 bodies in the port area," Mohapatra said. "Around 100 fishing trawlers came to the port from Andhra Pradesh and 48 have sunk."

Witnesses said that all through the night villagers stopped passing vehicles on the road to Paradip and demanded food.

Villagers in areas surrounding the port complained that no relief had reached them.

Mohapatra said protein-rich food, loaded in one of the cargo ships at Paradip port, was distributed among the villagers.

The managing director of Oswal Chemicals and Fertilisers, the world's largest di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) plant, Abhay Oswal, said the storm had severely damaged the plant.

A train carrying 50 tonnes of medical supplies was on its way to cyclone-hit areas from the capital, New Delhi, after rail lines linking Bhubaneshwar with New Delhi and Calcutta were restored on Sunday.

On Sunday, villagers wielding sticks stopped passing cars and looted shops, taking potatoes, wheat and flour, witnesses and officials said.

The government statement said phone links had been partially restored in Orissa state after both telephone and power lines were severed by winds of up to 260 km (160 miles) an hour.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has declared the cyclone, the second to hit the state in a month, a national calamity.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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