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225 Killed in Indian Cyclone

June 10, 1998

BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Relief workers distributed food and searched for bodies in the debris of smashed homes after a cyclone tore through western India, killing 225 people, injuring 1,200 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The toll from Tuesday’s storm, the worst to hit India in 25 years, could rise. Many people remain missing and relief workers have yet to reach some remote villages. The storm continued to produce high winds and rain today, but was no longer of cyclone strength.

The death toll was highest in Kutch district, where a 12-foot tidal wave flooded low-lying areas near Kandla, a port 330 miles northwest of Bombay.

As many as 140 people, including fishermen and port workers, drowned or were swept into the Arabian Sea, government officials said. Some 125 people have been listed as missing and officials fear the casualty figure could surpass 200 in Kutch alone.

The other deaths and injuries were mainly caused by lightning and collapsed houses in the rural districts of Junagadh, Bhuj, Valsad and Jamnagar near Porbunder, the town where the storm first struck land, 280 miles northwest of Bombay. Officials in neighboring Rajasthan state, quoted by Press Trust of India news agency today, reported nine deaths in the storm.

Nearly 800 workers living in makeshift tin-roofed camps at the Reliance refinery project at Jamnagar were injured by flying debris. Officials said 150 of them were hospitalized in a nearby town. The district reported 35 deaths.

Some 2,500 soldiers were called in to help restore communications and distribute supplies in remote areas of Gujarat state after Tuesday’s cyclone.

``The worst hit were the salt factory workers in Kandla. They are very poor people and didn’t understand the gravity of the warnings to stay away from the coast,″ said Kuntan Sanghvi, a government official in Ahmedabad, the Gujarat state capital.

Relief workers handed out wheat, potatoes and kerosene to residents of Bhuj, Jamnagar and Porbunder.

Packing wind speeds of up to 65 mph, the cyclone uprooted trees, electricity poles and cut off road and telecommunication links.

The worst affected districts of Kutch, Jamnagar and Porbunder were without electricity for a second day today.

Thousands of people spent the night in the streets after walls and roofs of mud-and-thatch houses collapsed. Authorities had moved some 20,000 people to safety before the cyclone struck.

Pakistan’s port city of Karachi was battered by rains blamed for the deaths of 12 people.

Update hourly