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. Storm-Hit Indian State Braces For Cyclone Mala

File NASA satellite image of a cyclone forming over India.
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 19, 2005
As many as 50,000 people were expected to be evacuated from coastal areas Monday in southeast Indian after the weather office sounded a cyclone alert, a government official said.

"We have made arrangements to evacuate 50,000 people in case the cyclone hits today," said official Gagandeep Singh Bedi from Cuddalore district in southeastern state Tamil Nadu.

Cyclone Mala (garland) on Monday was in the Bay of Bengal, 300 kilometres (188 miles) east of Cuddalore and headed for the coast, weather officials said.

Twenty-one shelters and food supplies were ready for those evacuated and health officials were on high alert, Bedi said.

The government has closed all schools in the state after heavy rains overnight and fishermen were told to remain on land, Bedi said.

Floods and heavy rains since October have lashed Tamil Nadu leaving tens of thousands homeless and killing more than 400 people.

Monsoon rains from October through January lash the eastern coast of India with cyclones from the Bay of Bengal frequent during the season.

The homeless have been placed in hundreds of camps, one of which was the scene of a stampede Sunday that killed 42 people and injured more than 50 in a rush for food coupons in the capital Chennai. It was the second such stampede since October.

The state government said it would pay the victim's families 100,000 rupees (2,212 dollars) in compensation and ordered an inquiry into the incident.

On Monday, India's federal legislature mourned those killed. "The stampede has added to grief of flood-ravaged victims. We deeply mourn the loss of lives and join bereaved families in their hour of sorrow," Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the lower house said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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