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India cyclone survivors return home to destruction
by Staff Writers
Gopalpur, India (AFP) Oct 14, 2013

Mass evacuations in Vietnam for typhoon Nari
Hanoi (AFP) Oct 14, 2013 - Vietnam is evacuating tens of thousands of people in the path of Typhoon Nari, state media said Monday, after the powerful storm left 13 dead in the Philippines.

Nari is expected to slam into central Vietnam on Tuesday morning, after ripping off rooftops, toppling trees and triggering flash floods in the northern Philippines over the weekend.

"Very strong winds are expected from later Monday. There might be heavy rains of up to 500 millimetres (20 inches) over the next few days," said Bui Minh Tang, head of Vietnam's national weather forecast centre.

Authorities in the central provinces of Thua Thien Hue and Da Nang were moving roughly 66,000 people in vulnerable coastal area to safety, according to the state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Boats have been urged to seek shelter and food has been prepared for residents in case of prolonged flooding, reports said.

Vietnam is hit by around eight to 10 tropical storms every year, often resulting in loss of life and heavy material damage.

Last month Typhoon Wutip left a trail of destruction in the communist state, ripping the roofs off nearly 200,000 houses and leaving several people dead, according to state media.

Forty people have been killed in flooding in Vietnam since early September, according to an official toll.

Mexico issues warning ahead of Tropical Storm Octave
Mexico City (AFP) Oct 14, 2013 - The Mexican government issued a tropical storm warning Monday as Octave took aim at an already disaster-weary Mexico, while a second storm, Priscilla, strengthened far out to sea.

Tropical Storm Octave, with winds of up to 60 miles (96 kilometers) per hour, was expected to approach the west coast of Baja California late Monday and Tuesday, US National Hurricane Center said in its latest advisory.

It was forecast to weaken as it moved closer, and Baja California civil protection chief Carlos Miguel Enriquez said it would make landfall "not as a storm, nor depression, just as a remnant."

Still, the storm could dump three to six inches (7.6 to 15.2 centimeters) of rain over much of the southern Baja California peninsula, just three weeks after the country weathered the dual blast of storms Manuel and Ingrid.

At least 157 people were killed in historic downpours, including 101 in the southern Guerrero state. Dozens were left missing in the mountainous village of La Pintada after a landslide buried a third of the community.

September's torrential rains left 1.7 million people homeless.

Authorities have issued a tropical storm warning for the southwestern portion of the Baja California peninsula, and Enriquez said they were considering whether to evacuate some residents.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Priscilla strengthened in the eastern Pacific Monday, packing winds of up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour, forecasters from the NHC said.

The weather system was situated some 646 miles (1,040 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja California.

Although some additional strengthening was expected over the next day or two, no coastal warnings or watches were in effect, the forecasters said.

Hundreds of thousands of people who fled India's strongest cyclone in 14 years returned home to scenes of devastation Monday, as a massive relief operation kicked into gear.

Teams raced to restore power and other services after the cyclone struck India's eastern coast on Saturday, killing at least 22 people and leaving a trail of destruction.

Cyclone Phailin pounded the states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh further south, bringing winds of more than 200 kilometres an hour (125 miles per hour), uprooting trees, overturning trucks, knocking out power lines and flooding farmland.

"The death toll from the cyclone in Orissa has now gone up from 17 to 21. The deaths are mostly due to falling walls and tree branches," Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, the state's special relief commissioner, told AFP by phone. One person was also killed in Andhra Pradesh, officials said.

Casualties were minimised after one million people spent the night huddled in shelters, temples and schools during the ferocious storm, in what officials said was India's largest ever evacuation operation.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee led a chorus of praise for the evacuation effort and the "high level of preparedness", as well as for the accurate forecasting of the country's weather bureaus.

Relief agencies said government officials seemed to have learnt the lessons from 1999, when a cyclone tore through the same region, killing more than 8,000 people and devastating crops and livestock.

"The government and the community were more aware this time and better prepared, it was a collective effort and a successful one," Manish Choudhary, a director of the Indian Red Cross Society, told AFP.

Officials in Orissa said 873,000 people moved before the cyclone made landfall on Saturday evening, while at least another 100,000 were evacuated in Andhra Pradesh. Residents were also evacuated from coastal regions of West Bengal state.

Many returned home on Monday to discover their homes -- often built just of flimsy mud and thatch -- as well as their businesses damaged or destroyed.

Mostly poor farmers and fishermen, they were resigned to getting on with the job of rebuilding rather than waiting for rescue workers.

"I left everything (behind) and when I came back nothing was here," said Bhagwan, 50, a coconut seller from the town of Gopalpur who uses one name, as he sat on the ground in front of his destroyed shop.

Kishor Nayak crammed into a boat with dozens of others to reach his village across a swollen river from Sunapur hamlet. Villagers clutched shoes, clothes, food and other basic possessions in plastic bags.

"My house is flat. I have to go back and fix it now," Nayak said.

"There is no food either. My kids have been starving, crying," he added.

Power infrastructure collapse

Some 3,000 officers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have fanned out across the region, a top official said.

"Our team is still working hard clearing roads, removing debris from damaged buildings and cutting and removing fallen electric poles and trees," NDRF director general Krishna Chaudhary told reporters.

Relief workers also distributed food at shelters, while authorities worked to restore power, water and other services. The army said 18 helicopters and 12 aircraft have been deployed to help with the relief operation.

The top official in the hardest-hit district of Ganjam said power services have been wrecked, while 500,000 homes in his district alone have been partially or completely destroyed.

"The power infrastructure has completely collapsed, it is smashed. There's no way electricity will be back tonight. It will take us a minimum of one week, maybe even two weeks to get power back," collector of Ganjam district Krishan Kumar said.

"Nothing is left here," he told AFP.

"About 30,000 people have lost their homes completely, they will stay in our cyclone shelters until they can rebuild," he added.

Choudhary, from the Red Cross, said 3,000 volunteers were distributing tents and other assistance to those left homeless, while the state government announced food assistance packages for affected families.

Although the cyclone has dissipated, heavy rain was falling across the region, with flood warnings in several districts in Orissa.

Meanwhile, the coastguard on Monday rescued 18 sailors -- 17 Chinese and an Indonesian -- who had been drifting on a lifeboat since their cargo ship started sinking on Saturday in the Bay of Bengal during the cyclone.

"The crew abandoned the ship and set out in a lifeboat after their vessel began sinking in the rough seas," coastguard Commandant Rajendra Nath told AFP from the city of Kolkata.

The lifeboat carrying the crew from MV Bingo was finally spotted overnight, drifting at the mouth of a river that runs into the bay near Orissa's Balasore city, said Nath, who led the operation.

The crew were taken to hospital in Kolkata for treatment, he said.

In another story of survival, 18 fishermen trapped offshore in rough seas abandoned their trawler as the cyclone approached, Nath said.

The fishermen swam to shore and were discovered before being taken to a local hospital near the port of Paradip in Orissa.

Some of the deadliest storms in history have formed in the Bay of Bengal, including one in 1970 that killed hundreds of thousands of people in modern-day Bangladesh.


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Mexico issues warning ahead of Tropical Storm Octave
Mexico City (AFP) Oct 14, 2013
The Mexican government issued a tropical storm warning Monday as Octave took aim at an already disaster-weary Mexico, while a second storm, Priscilla, strengthened far out to sea. Tropical Storm Octave, with winds of up to 60 miles (96 kilometers) per hour, was expected to approach the west coast of Baja California late Monday and Tuesday, US National Hurricane Center said in its latest advi ... read more

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