Cyclone in India weakens; officials say mass evacuations saved lives
BEHRAMPUR, India (AP) - India began sorting through miles of wreckage on Sunday after Cyclone Phailin roared ashore, flooding towns and villages and destroying tens of thousands of thatch homes, but officials said the country had been spared the widespread loss of life that many had feared.
About 18 hours after the storm - the strongest to hit India in more than a decade - made landfall in eastern Orissa state, officials said they knew of only seven fatalities, most of them people killed by falling branches or collapsing buildings in the rains ahead of the cyclone.
The final death toll will almost certainly climb, and parts of the cyclone-battered coast remain isolated by downed communication links and blocked roads. But initial indications are that the government's evacuation of more than 600,000 people saved many lives.
"Damage to property is extensive," Amitabh Thakur, the top police officer in the Orissa district worst-hit by the cyclone. "But few lives have been lost," he said, crediting the mass evacuations.