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Indian relief efforts begin after Cyclone Phailin; more than a dozen dead

Cyclone Phailin has killed at least 14 people as it battered India’s east coast over the weekend. Emergency teams have begun assessing the damage from the country's worst cyclone in over a decade.

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Phailin: Stärkster Zyklon Indiens seit Jahren

The vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Marri Shashidhar Reddy, told reporters that relief and rescue operations were in full swing in the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. He said 14 people had been killed by the storm.

"There are 13 deaths in Orissa and one death reported in Andhra Pradesh and so we have been able to ... (keep) the death toll to a bare minimum," he said. Mass evacuations ahead of the cyclone prevented the widespread deaths that many in India had feared.

Reddy told a press conference in New Delhi that 685 kilometers (425 miles) of roads have already been cleared of trees and other debris.

The cyclone left a trail of devastation, flooding low-lying areas, felling trees, bringing down power and communication lines and upending vehicles parked on streets.

Indian officials spoke dismissively of American forecasters who had earlier predicted higher statistics for the storm than their Indian counterparts.

"After the exaggerated manner international agencies tried to portray it (the cyclone and disaster), the NDMA has done an excellent job," Reddy said.

A storm the size of France

The cyclone hit the east coast of Indian on Saturday night with winds of around 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles per hour). It had nearly filled the entire Bay of Bengal, an area the size of France.

As it moved inland, Phailin has since been downgraded from a "very severe cyclone" to a "cyclone" with winds of up to 110 kilometers per hour by Sunday morning, the Indian Meteorological Department said.

Heavy rains are predicted until Monday, the department said, and could cause flooding.

Weather forecasters said Phailin was the most powerful cyclone to hit India since a "super cyclone" in 1999 killed more than 8,000 people.

This time, however, authorities carried out one of India's biggest rescue efforts, evacuating nearly 1 million people from Odisha and Andhra Pradesh ahead of the storm, Mohapatra said.

hc/mkg (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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