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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK

World: South Asia

Cyclone hits Pakistan

Collecting belongings east of karachi after Thursday's cyclone

Pakistan's southern coast has been hit by a severe cyclone that was originally headed for India's west coast.

Tropical cyclone 2A shifted course to the northwest toward Pakistan after prompting mass evacuations and port closures in India's western state of Gujarat.

Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad: No word on how many people are affected
It hit Sindh Province at 10 am (0500 GMT) near the fishing harbour of Keti Bander, 200 miles east of Karachi.

Winds of up to 270 km/h were reported by the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics in Karachi.

[ image: Villagers surveying the devastation]
Villagers surveying the devastation
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in the area.

Earlier, a cyclone alert prompted authorities to suspend cargo handling at Karachi's Port Qasim as the city experienced strong winds.

But the city escaped the brunt of the storm. Several small villages dotting the Arabian Sea coast were in the path of the cyclone but the remoteness of the area made it difficult to get instance reports of damage.

Cyclone misses Gujarat

Heavy rains and winds were reported along India's Kachh region as the cyclone passed coastal Gujarat.

The small fishing port of Dwarka and the neighbouring harbour of Kandla were lashed with rain and winds of up to 150 km/h. Reports say that around 50,000 people were evacuated from their homes and streets were deserted.

Arif Suleman was one of many local fishermen who had gathered to shelter in local schools requisitioned by authorities.

"The waves were 12 feet high and the sea water was pouring into our homes. Nearly everything we had was destroyed," he said.

Apart from the mass evacuation, army helicopters were put on alert for possible rescue operations.

Power was also switched off in several coastal towns as a precaution.

In June last year, a storm left more than 1,000 people dead and caused damage estimated at over £200m.

Correspondents in Gujarat say that the authorities appeared to have been far better prepared this time, after having been widely criticised after last year's storm.

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