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Asia

Southern India struggles with Cyclone Nilam

Cyclone Nilam has caused nearly 30 deaths and large-scale damage to property in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which is still reeling from the after-effects of the devastating weather.

The cyclonic storm has now left behind a trail of death and destruction, claiming at least 28 lives and destroying standing crops over large areas in the coastal region. Four children in the coastal west Godavari district were among the casualties.

"Rain continues to lash several parts of the state and we have to endure more rains in the coming days," Madhu Reddy, an official of the meteorological department in Hyderabad, told DW. "Villages and towns have been inundated by swollen rivulets. This is frightening."

When Cyclone Nilam crossed the Tamil Nadu coast last week, it passed by without causing any major destruction. But the storm that originated over the Bay of Bengal gradually weakened into a low pressure area, resulting in heavy and incessant rains in the adjoining state of Andhra Pradesh.

Emergency operations were launched to evacuate more than 67,000 people from low-lying areas to relief camps.

"The death toll in rain-related incidents … has risen," T Radha, state disaster management commissioner, told DW. "There have also been cases of electrocution. We have set up 86 relief camps."

Fishermen stand on their fishing boats at the Kasimedu Fishing Harbour ahead of Cyclone Nilam (Photo: EPA)

The cyclone that wreaked so much havoc originated over the Bay of Bengal

If the forecast for more rains held true, he said, more casualties were to be expected.

Huge damage to life and property

Major and minor streams and rivulets in the coastal region were spilling over, submerging and washing away railway tracks and swamping roads and bridges. In areas where electric wires were damaged by the rains, power outages continue to pose a problem.

According to estimates put out by the state government, over 1,200 houses have been fully or partially damaged along with 7,000 kilometers of road. The agriculture sector has also suffered widespread losses, with nearly 1.2 million acres of crops damaged.

"The US dealt with the super storm Sandy though it caused mayhem. But we still have to brace ourselves for powerful wind speeds of 80-85 km per hour. Restoration work is going to take a long time," Civil Supplies Minister D. Sridhar Babu told DW.

Over 100 people were rescued by naval teams from various villages as heavy rains continued to fall over the past few days. State authorities said that a total of 150 villages were completely marooned.

Many had predicted that Nilam, which hit India's southeastern coast last week, would significantly weaken but never imagined it would impact Andhra Pradesh to such a great extent.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has also been monitoring relief and rehabilitation measures and directed the state Chief Minister Kiran Kumar to keep a close eye on the situation.

The Indian Ocean usually sees about five cyclones a year, with the most severe ones occurring between the months of May to June and October to November.

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