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Sunday, May 23, 1999 Published at 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK

World: South Asia

Cyclone death toll rises

An estimated 1,200 people are still missing

The full scale of the cyclone disaster in Pakistan is becoming clearer - the authorities say more than 130 people are known to have died.

Some reports put the death toll higher at over 220 killed.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones: "It is clear there has been massive material damage."
Many people drowned, others were crushed in the rubble of their homes when the storm struck south-eastern coastal areas on Thursday.

Two hundred people have been trapped by high water, and the search is continuing for an estimated 1,200 still missing.

Pakistani officials fear the toll could rise.

Many villages were destroyed, along with rice, sugar-cane crops and livestock.

Helicopters join the rescue

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has visited the area, and ordered the authorities to send more helicopters to supply relief to the vicitms.

[ image: The cyclone hit Pakistan on Friday]
The cyclone hit Pakistan on Friday
A Hyderabad official, Nazar Mohammed Baluch, said the authorities were still rescuing people cut off by high water levels. Helicopters have been called in to move them to relief camps on higher ground.

More than 300 soldiers were ordered to the region, where they are setting up emergency camps and searching for survivors.

The army has also been delivering food and relief supplies to people in areas where the cyclone caused widespread damage to homes.

Missing at sea

The President of the Pakistani Fisherman's Association, Mohammed Ali Shah, said as many as 450 fishermen were still missing. He said some 200 vessels had been swept out to sea.

Pakistan's Navy has been deployed to rescue fishing boats left damaged and helpless far from shore.

[ image: A Gharo resident collects the remains of her home]
A Gharo resident collects the remains of her home
Cotton crops in the region escaped largely unschathed. But officials say there has been "massive" damage to other crops, with as many as 60,000 hectares of farmland seriously damaged.

The storm, labelled Tropical Cyclone 2A, hit Sindh province at 1000 (0500 GMT) on Thursday, 320km (200 miles) east of Karachi.

Meteorologists from Karachi's Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics reported winds of up to 270kmph (170 mph).

Indian fishing fleet hit

Authorities in India say that they are searching for more than 200 fisherman missing since the cyclone developed.

The Gujarat State Relief Commissioner, Vijaysinh Parmar, told reporters: "We are trying to locate 48 boats carrying some 250 fishermen who went out to sea from the Gujarat coast before the cyclone warning was issued."

Five naval helicopters are carrying out the search near the Gulf of Kacch.

The cyclone was originally heading towards India before it changed course, hitting southern Pakistan instead.

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