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Indians say cyclone evacuation kept them alive

  • An Indian couple repair their home at the cyclone affected Haripur village in Ganjam district, Orissa state, India, Monday, Oct. 14, 2013. A mass government evacuation of nearly 1 million people spared India the widespread deaths many had feared from the powerful weekend cyclone Phailin, which destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crops and tens of thousands of homes. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout)

By Monday, only 25 people had been reported killed, even though tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. The successful evacuation effort was earning rare praise for a country known for large-scale disasters that have caused high death tolls. In 1999, a cyclone that struck the same coast killed about 10,000 people, while more than 6,000 were killed in June by flooding and mudslides in another Indian state, Uttarakhand.

"If we had stayed here, everyone in the village would be dead," said Amma, a 55-year-old fisherwoman. "I consider myself lucky to be alive."

Despite the comparatively low number of deaths, Phailin still dealt its share of misery, as hundreds of thousands of coastal residents found themselves huddling in shelters, their homes flattened and crops destroyed by the most powerful storm to hit India in more than a decade.

At least four days before the cyclone hit, police in the coastal states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh began traveling through villages to warn residents of the coming storm and urge them to go to government shelters set up in schools and other concrete buildings.

While a few chose to ignore the warnings or stay home to guard their belongings, many had lived through the cyclone 14 years ago that killed 10,000.


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