New Delhi - At least 22 people died following heavy rains
and flooding brought on by a powerful cyclone over the weekend, Indian
officials said on Monday.
Cyclone Phailin approached from the Bay of Bengal on
Saturday night with winds of up to 200kph, leaving a trail of
destruction in the coastal districts of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states.
Disaster management officials said 21 people were killed by
the collapse of houses and falling trees, with one more death in the storm
confirmed in Andhra Pradesh.
Orissa launched rescue and relief operations in three
districts after flooding in the Subarnarekha, Baitrani and Budhabalanga rivers,
state relief official Prabhakar Pradhan said.
"The focus of rescue and relief has shifted to
flood-affected areas inland. Workers are out to help rescue stranded
people," he said.
Towns and villages were inundated as river levels raised,
causing panic, broadcaster NDTV reported.
Flood warnings were also issued in adjoining Bihar state
where the Kosi and Gandak rivers were at high levels.
Orissa authorities began to restore power to the affected
areas, and residents started returning to their homes after the storm died
The Indian Meterological Department said Phailin had
weakened into a depression with maximum winds of 55kph, and lay near Orissa's
Phailin was India's most powerful cyclone since a
"super cyclone" killed 10 000 people in Orissa 14 years ago. The
prevention of a major loss of life was put down to a massive evacuation effort
to move 1 million people to safer areas and storm shelters.
According to government assessments, 10 million people were
affected in 15 315 villages in Orissa alone; 230 000 houses, many of them
thatched huts, were damaged. The cyclone toppled power and communication lines
and damaged crops over an area of 600 000 hectares.