- Killer cyclone wreaks havoc along Indian coast (Updated)
- Grand funeral for a hero second only to Ho Chi Minh
- Typhoon Nari pounds Philippines
BHUBANESWAR, India, Oct 13, 2013 (AFP) - Cyclone Phailin ripped through India's east coast leaving a trail of destruction on Sunday and up to seven people dead after one of the biggest evacuations in India's history to minimise casualties.
As emergency teams began assessing the damage from the country's worst cyclone in 14 years, a massive relief effort came into full swing to distribute food, clear roads and help the injured.
The worst affected area around the town of Gopalpur, where the eye of Phailin packing winds of 200 kilometres an hour (125 miles per hour) came ashore, remained cut off with emergency services rushing to reach there.
Elsewhere, roofs were blown off, trees fell across roads and debris was strewn over the streets of state capital Bhubaneswar where the winds had died down and heavy overnight rainfall had ceased.
"Our teams have fanned out on the ground, they are running searches, trying to check if there have been any casualties, check the extent of the damage," Sandeep Rai Rathore, inspector general of the army's National Disaster Response Force told AFP.
Orissa state relief commissioner Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra told AFP that three people had been confirmed dead, while other estimates put the toll at seven.
"We almost cleared out the danger zone. In the end, we cleared more than 8.61 lakh (861,000) people. It might be India's biggest evacuation ever," Mohapatra added to AFP.
With another 100,000 people in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state evacuated on Saturday, the total figure is likely to be more than a million.
Local member of parliament for Orissa Jay Panda told local television that seven people had been killed.
"Casualties figures will change as information comes in from remote parts there are quite a few places which are cut off from communications," he told NDTV television.
The number of dead appeared to be "significantly lower than what it could have been" because of the mobilisation of emergency efforts before the storm stuck, he said.
The Indian weather office said that cyclone Phailin had weakened significantly after it moved inland, but warned it still posed a danger, particularly from flooding.
"The cyclone appears to be weakening. As of 5:30 am, we recorded wind speeds of about 130-140 kilometres per hour," senior scientist from the Indian Meteorological Department M. Mohapatra told AFP in New Delhi.
Initial reports suggested Phailin had been less destructive than a more powerful storm in 1999 which hit the same coastal area - a region populated by fishermen and small-scale farmers who live in flimsy huts with thatched roofs or shanties.
A government report on the 1999 disaster put the death toll at 8,243, and said 445,000 livestock perished.
"No one was prepared for the storm in 1999 but this time the government declared an emergency," said telecoms worker Rajiv Baral as he bought emergency supplies from the shopkeeper Singh in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
"Because of that we've been getting ready for it for two to three days."
Some of the deadliest storms in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal, including one in 1970 that killed hundreds of thousands of people in modern-day Bangladesh.
HANOI: Vietnam's top leaders gathered to pay their last respects to independence hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died last week at 102, as his state funeral began in Hanoi.
The commemorations come as the one-party state tries to capture Giap's legacy as a symbol of its own legitimacy, hailing him as a communist hero while downplaying the general's later reputation as a persistent government critic.
Soldiers in white uniforms stood to attention as officials, including Vietnam's prime minister and president, bade farewell to Giap who was second only to late president Ho Chi Minh in the affections of the communist nation.
"He had an outstanding talent in military leadership," wrote Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong in a book of condolences, according to state media.
Lauded as a military genius for the guerrilla tactics that defeated both the French and American armies, the general is being honoured with two days of national mourning.
A photograph of Giap and a gilt frame containing military medals was placed above his coffin, which was draped in the national flag.
Giap, a former history teacher turned military commander, led his troops to victory over France in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu – the battle that ended French involvement in Indochina – and played a key role in Vietnam's defeat of the United States in 1975.
Despite being politically sidelined after the country's reunification in 1975, Giap remained enormously popular – even with people born after the war.
"I am deeply honoured to attend the funeral," said Colonel Bui Xuan Tuyen.
"General Giap is a symbol of the pride and triumph of the Vietnamese People's Army," the 46-year-old added.
More than 100,000 people queued for hours to visit Giap's house this week to pay their final respects after news of his death broke.
Concerts have been cancelled, national parks closed, and normal state television broadcasts suspended in favour of patriotic music and documentaries for the mourning period. — AFP
MANILA: Typhoon Nari pounded the northern Philippines killing 13 people, ripping roofs off thousands of buildings, and leaving more than two million without power.
Nari tore into the country's northeast coast around midnight on Friday, toppling trees and pylons as it cut a westward swathe through the farming regions of the main island of Luzon, officials said.
"While there were relatively few casualties, a lot of areas are still flooded," said Eduardo del Rosario, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Coun-cil.
Witnesses in the coastal town of Baler, near where Nari made landfall, said many large trees had been felled and clean-up crews with chainsaws were clearing roads.
Military and police rescuers trucked residents out of flooded villages as the weather improved after the typhoon's 120kph winds swept out to the South China Sea yesterday morning.
Government clerk Glenn Diwa, 34, said she and her husband spent a sleepless night as the typhoon roared through the town of Capas, 90km north of here, shortly before midnight.
"The wind was very strong and there was a whistling sound. After a while we heard torn roofing sheets clattering across the yard," she said.
As Nari dumped rain inland, a wall of mud fell on a police barracks near the town of Magalang, killing an officer awaiting deployment to rescue typhoon victims, the disaster council's spokesman Rey Balido told a news conference.
Elsewhere in central Luzon, an elderly woman and four minors were crushed to death when trees crashed onto two houses and a vehicle, while the wall of a school collapsed and crushed an old man to death.
Two children and an elderly person drowned in a flooded village, while the body of a fisherman who had gone to sleep in his boat on shore the previous night was recovered at sea, Balido added.
Another man was electrocuted by a loose power line while yet another died of a heart attack in an incident that disaster officials also blamed on Nari.
Three other fishermen who put to sea before the typhoon have also failed to return, Balido said.
He said nearly 6,000 people moved into government-run shelters amid warnings their communities could be hit by flooding and landslides from the typhoon.
ABS-CBN television aired footage of earth-coloured floodwaters climbing above river defences and swamping farmland in San Miguel, where three of the victims had drowned.
Soldiers, police, and local government workers used military trucks to rescue residents in flooded communities in San Miguel and Minalin towns, the regional civil defence office there said.
"The wind picked up very quickly,
very dramatically. We had the wind coming right off the ocean for four hours," said one witness on the east coast.
Even as the weather improved, floodwaters continued to rise in low-lying areas as rain from the nearby Sierra Madre mountains swept downstream through swollen rivers.
In the town of San Ildefonso, 60km from here, police pulled a woman on a motorbike and a farmer to safety after they were nearly swept away while separately crossing a street that had turned into a raging river.
Farmer Frankie Gracia, 30, said he had been forced to butcher one of his pigs after it fell ill from exposure to the rain, and he had wanted to take some of the pork to his relatives across the street.
"I needed to reach the other side soon, otherwise the meat would spoil," he said.
Balido said 8,414 houses were damaged, while the central Luzon civil defence office said the typhoon blacked out 37 towns and cities, populated by 2.1 million people.
Road and utility crews were out clearing roads and restoring power, but it could take up to two days before electricity is restored and major highways are reopened to traffic, Nigel Lontoc, a disaster official for the region, said by telephone.
The Philippines is hit by some 20 typhoons each year.
Nari is expected to draw close to Vietnam's northeast coast by Tuesday, the Hong Kong Observatory said. — AFP
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