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Saturday, October 30, 1999 Published at 19:07 GMT

World: South Asia

Million homeless after cyclone

Up to 10 milion have been affected by the cyclone

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee says up to 1.5 million people have been made homeless by the cyclone which has wreaked havoc in eastern states.

The BBC's Linda Duffin: "The cyclone of the century"
Announcing a billion rupee ($23m) rescue package Mr Vajpayee said: "We are treating it as a national calamity."

The storm, classified a supercyclone with winds of over 250km/h (160mph), destroyed communications and cut road, rail and air links to the east of the country on Friday.

Orissa: After the storm
Worst hit was Orissa state where hundreds are feared to have died. Chief Minister Giridhar Gamag said: "You cannot imagine the devastation."

The BBC's correspondent in Delhi, Daniel Lak, says politicians are talking about the possibility of international aid.

[ image: Bad weather continues to hamper the rescue operation]
Bad weather continues to hamper the rescue operation
Indian troops and emergency specialists were deployed on Saturday but their efforts are being hampered by continued bad weather as the cyclone moves inland - meteorologist say it should gradually weaken as it drifts northeast.

Air force helicopters have been dropping food parcels to the worst hit areas and rescuers also plan to distribute food, vaccines and polyethylene sheets to cyclone victims.

More than 100,000 houses have been damaged and 50,000 people evacuated from nine coastal villages.

Missing at sea

Officials in Orissa's state capital, Bhubaneshwar, said nine deaths have been confirmed but that number is expected to rise rapidly.

[ image:  ]
Many towns and villages have not been able to report casualty figures or damage assessments because telephone lines have been brought down.

Up to 400 fisherman have been reported missing, and 4,000 others are believed to be stranded at sea.

The cyclone ripped through the port town of Paradwip, then moved on to Bhubaneshwar, 90km (55 miles) from the coast.

An official said the port and parts of the town had been "extensively damaged".

Daniel Lak: Most heavily populated areas were worst affected
United News of India reported that the West Bengal state government had decided to evacuate nearly 200,000 people from islands in the Bay of Bengal.

A similar storm hit the area less than two weeks ago, killing more than 150 people and affecting nearly 500,000 others.

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