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400 Die in Pakistan Cyclone

May 24, 1999

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Villagers and troops recovered at least 400 bodies _ some suspended in trees or buried in mud _ and rescued thousands of survivors after a cyclone tore through hundreds of villages in southern Pakistan, witnesses and officials said Sunday.

Rescue workers retrieved the bodies as flood waters receded, leaving devastated villages and thousands of stranded people.

Hundreds were missing and feared drowned, with little hope that their bodies would be found soon, officials said. They said many bodies had probably been swept out to sea.

A cyclone with winds of 170 mph smashed into the Arabian Sea coast Thursday, causing floods that submerged thousands of villages in the coastal Thatta and Badin districts of Sind province.

The two districts are located 30 miles and 75 miles, respectively from the port city Karachi.

Soldiers used boats and helicopters to rescue thousands of survivors, but many remained stranded in remote villages.

``The government is doing all it can ... but we were not prepared for a calamity of this magnitude,″ Sindh Gov. Moinuddin Haider told reporters late Saturday.

At least 164 bodies were recovered from Raj Malik village in Thatta district, said Dr. Mumtaz Uqali, interviewed by telephone.

``Bodies were strewn on trees and rolled in mud,″ he said. The dead were being buried in mass graves, he said.

Many survivors were suffering from exposure and there were fears of an outbreak of disease as the water receded, authorities said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced $1 million in financing for relief efforts, but Haider said at least $6 million was needed.

Water and power supply lines were destroyed, as was the communications network. It will take months to restore the utilities, Haider said.

Villagers said they received no prior warning of the cyclone. Haider said residents of the area were warned but did not evacuate their villages.

Many of the fishing villages battered by the cyclone were small and poor, said residents of the area. Most homes were made of flimsy material, like straw and mud.

Update hourly