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Fight for food and deadly water in floods horror.

Most of the coastal areas of the Indian state of Orissa are still cut off - four days after a cyclone of 155mph winds and ten-foot tidal waves whirled in from the Bay of Bengal.

Homeless survivors of one of the country's worst cyclones drank filthy flood water and scrambled for helicopter-dropped food packets yesterday, as officials, unprepared for the disaster, refused to estimate how many thousands are dead.

"Even in our worst dreams we did not apprehend such a situation. It is the worst flood in the last 100 years," said Mr Asim Kumar Vaishnav, a chief administrator in Baleshwar.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee summoned his senior Cabinet Ministers to discuss relief efforts and reports of food riots and looting along India's eastern coast.

"People who are hungry are likely to indulge in violence," said Mr Ram Jethmalani, the Law Minister.

"It will be at least a week for relief to reach all parts of the state. By then many people would have died of hunger and diseases," said Mr Anadi Sadhu, an MP from the state. Many survivors will face a slow death from epidemics, he said.

A news agency quoted an unidentified official as saying 3,000 to 5,000 were dead, but national television reports said the figure would be much higher.

Millions of people whose homes, livestock and rice fields were sunk under up to 6ft of water, stood along the roads waiting for packets of rice and water to be dropped from air force helicopters.

The capital, Bhubaneswar, remained without electricity or phone service.

At least 200,000 people, one out of every six residents of the capital, has been made homeless.

Mobs looted trucks bringing emergency food aid, and broke into navy warehouses and homes of officials in the flooded port city of Paradwip, where the navy cleared a channel for two landing ships to unload food, generators and water packets for 1,500 people. All rail lines to the city are submerged.

A crowd in Paradwip attacked a helicopter that brought Defence Minister Mr George Fernandes, journalists and other Cabinet Ministers, but no food.

To save the helicopter from damage, the pilot left two of the officials behind, returning to evacuate them from a school where they took refuge.

"They don't know whom to ask for what assistance," Mr Fernandes said, describing the scene as complete chaos. "There is a complete breakdown of law and order."

At least 20 fishing trawlers carrying about 200 men remain missing.

The Times of India said the death toll had been increased by lack of information "on what relief measures are needed where".

The cyclonic winds knocked down electricity and telephone lines in the state's second largest town, Cuttack.

lPresident Clinton has offered pounds 1.3 million in emergency food and shelter supplies to victims of the cyclone, and expressed condolences on behalf of Americans.

"Our hearts go out to the Indian people, and we are prepared to do what we can to help," Mr Clinton said.

"On behalf of all Americans, Hillary and I offer our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones to the devastating cyclone that has struck eastern India," he said.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 3, 1999
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