BHUBANESWAR, India - A cyclone left a trail of death and destruction Sunday after winds packing speeds of up to 200 kilometres an hour ripped through a vast swathe of India's impoverished east coast.
As emergency teams began assessing the damage from the country's worst cyclone in 14 years, a massive relief effort was coming into full swing for the more than half a million people forced to evacuate their homes.
Although there was no official death toll, a government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that six people had been reported dead in the worst-hit states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
The Times of India reported that four people were killed by falling trees in Orissa and that an 80-year-old was crushed to death when her mud home collapsed.
Even before the cyclone made landfall, strong winds had torn away trees and ripped through flimsy homes.
The army's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said 1,200 of its troops had been sent to Orissa and a further 500 to Andhra Pradesh.
"As soon as the fury of the cyclone abates our boys will start their work," NDRF director general Krishna Chaudhary told reporters.
"The teams have medical first responders (for first aid), heavy cutting equipment, life-saving equipment that responds to breathing and even to warmth. In the case of cyclones there is a likelihood of collapsed buildings."
While the full extent of the damage could not be measured until the morning, the director general of the Indian meteorological department L.S.
Rathore said the cyclone posed a danger to a 150-kilometre stretch of coastline.