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India Cyclone Kills 78

October 20, 2001

HYDERABAD, India (AP) _ Army helicopters dropped food, medicine and drinking water to survivors Friday as the death toll rose to 78 from a cyclone that produced flash floods and the heaviest rainfall in 40 years to some parts of southern India.

The toll may climb further when rescuers reach remote areas still cut off after the Tuesday storm. Twenty-five people still were missing in five districts, said D. C. Roshaiah, the state relief commissioner.

Officials confirmed Friday that 13 women and a man were washed away and drowned in a flash flood as they tried to cross the Gundalakamma River in Guntur district, 155 miles east of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

A total of 15 people have drowned since Thursday, Roshaiah said.

The 15 drowned in Kurnool in a temple at the town of Panyam, 175 miles south of Hyderabad, when water burst through an irrigation pool dam.

Nearly 50,000 people were evacuated from low lying areas and have taken refuge in 126 relief camps in the five districts.

Facing criticism from local residents for lack of prompt relief, state Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu transferred the administrative chiefs of worst-hit Nellore and Cuddpah districts.

Cuddpah collector Adar Sinha was removed for opening the flood gates of a dam without warning people about it. That led to a massive flooding of the town and neighboring areas. Angry residents of Cuddpah also locked up a local lawmaker for several hours in protest.

Update hourly