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Workers clear debris after Indian cyclone kills 8

13 October 2014, 14:03

Hyderbard - More than 1,000 rescue workers and soldiers cleared away piles of uprooted trees and electrical poles blocking roads on Monday after powerful Cyclone Hudhud slammed into India's eastern coast, leaving at least eight dead.

In another storm lashing Asia, Typhoon Vongfong was downgraded to a tropical storm as it hit the Japanese island of Kyushu after battering the southern island of Okinawa. At least 37 people were injured, and authorities advised 400,000 people to evacuate. Train service and flights were disrupted in Kyushu and the neighboring island of Shikoku.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the storm could reach the Tokyo area by early Tuesday.

In India, rescuers readied dozens of boats, helicopters and other aircraft to carry out relief operations once they obtained a clearer idea of the extent of damage in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states, said Anil Shekhawat, an Indian official.

Weather forecasters downgraded Hudhud to a tropical depression as it moved further inland on a course north-northwest of the city of Visakhapatnam, where it made landfall Sunday. However, they warned that heavy to very heavy rainfall would lash parts of six Indian states.

The death toll stood at eight on Monday, five in Andhra Pradesh state and three in Orissa state, mostly because of injuries from collapsed walls and falling trees, officials said.

At least 400,000 people were evacuated from coastal areas of the states ahead of the storm, and hundreds of shelters were set up to house them, helping to reduce casualties.

While India has a disastrous record of response to natural calamities, it managed last October to safely evacuate nearly a million people from the path of Cyclone Phailin, the strongest tropical storm to hit India in more than a decade. Phailin destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crops but claimed only about 25 lives.

Visakhapatnam, one of the largest cities in southern India and a major naval base, bore the brunt of Hudhud's fury. Television footage from Visakhapatnam showed downed electrical poles, uprooted trees and massive debris strewn in the streets. Electricity was disconnected in parts of Andhra Pradesh to avoid electrocutions, said Arvind Kumar, a relief and rescue official.

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Andhra Pradesh's chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, said Sunday that while the early evacuations had saved lives, the cyclone caused "huge damage" to buildings and crops in coastal districts.

Authorities were trying to restore train service which remained suspended for a second day in the region. Cellphone service was also disrupted because of damage to communication towers in and around Visakhapatnam.

The National Disaster Response Force said rescuers were trying to reach 320 villages in four districts of Andhra Pradesh state badly hit by the cyclone.

The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. In 1999, a cyclone devastated Orissa's coastline and killed at least 10,000 people.

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- AP

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