Seven million are marooned by floods in India

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The Independent Online
ABOUT 7.5 million survivors of last week's cyclone which devastated the east India state of Orissa were still marooned by floodwaters yesterday.

The skies cleared and the sun shone over the ravaged coast for the first time since the cyclone hit, and air force and army helicopters quickened the pace of airdrops of food and medical supplies to stranded communities.

Fifteen million of Orissa's 35 million citizens were affected by the cyclone, the houses of many blown into driftwood. Officials said half the survivors remained stranded.

Orissa's special relief commissioner, D N Padhi, said the confirmed number of dead was 1,381, with 765 in Jagatsinghpur district. Officials said the final death toll was likely to run into several thousands.

Aid officials said hundreds of starving people were swarming into food aid centres and scrambling to grab food packets being air-dropped. "How can you blame them for struggling for food when most of them have not eaten in the past three days and have lost all they had?" said S S Singh, a port officer with the Co-operative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (Care) India.

Mr Singh, who drove from Paradip to the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, said he saw fishing communities of stranded women and children and no men. The men had not returned from sea since the cyclone hit on Friday and Saturday last week.

In Delhi, officials said 282 tons of food had been airdropped and about 18,200 tons of grain had been moved by air, sea, rail and road.

More than 70 per cent of Kakatpur village remained submerged in floodwaters and more than 200 people crammed into the only concrete building, a house that doubles as a granary. (Reuters)

t Pope John Paul arrived in Delhi yesterday on a four-day visit to India amid tight security.Black-clad commandos searched for explosives at the Delhi stadium where the Pope will celebrate mass tomorrow. Hindu fundamentalists have staged marches and sit-ins to protest against the visit.