Relief Groups Respond to India Cyclone

Humanitarian groups are responding to a cyclonic storm that ripped through India yesterday, killing 16 people and flooding thousands of homes.

Cyclone Laila touched down near Bapatla at 1:40 p.m. local time yesterday, unleashing heavy rains and 55-75mph winds across nearly 800 villages.

Power lines were downed, trees uprooted, and standing fruit crops were destroyed. Rail and road services remain paralyzed by the rains and flood waters.

Some 1 million people are estimated to have been affected by the storm, which is considered the country's worst in nearly 14 years.

"Normal life has been devastated with homes in many areas under water, in darkness and roofs and household items washed away. It will take weeks and perhaps months for normalcy to be restored in the coastal districts," a state government official told the Times of India.

The official added that the full extent of the cyclone's damage can only be assessed after the storm recedes over the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, relief groups are reporting that thousands are in need of food, sanitation and drinking water.

Groups currently working on the ground to provide assistance include British charity Christian Aid and members of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance, including the Church's Auxiliary for Social Action, the Lutheran World Federation, and the United Evangelical Church of India.

While the effects of the storm are severe, however, loss of life was reportedly minimized through the Andrha Pradesh government's efforts to evacuate 87,000 vulnerable people into schools, government buildings and other shelters.

"If the cyclone had hit Bihar where communities and government are less able to cope, this could have been a lot worse," Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, regional emergency manager for Christian Aid, said.

"Fortunately, the government in Andhra Pradesh is able to prepare for disasters, and this has helped to save lives," he added.

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