Cyclone Fani Kills 15 in India

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- At least 15 people have been killed in India and Bangladesh in Cyclone Fani, one of the Bay of Bengal's largest storms in decades, officials said Saturday.

The storm ripped through the Indian state of Odisha on Friday, uprooting trees and power lines and smashing traditional thatched-roof huts. On Saturday, Fani crossed over India's West Bengal state and moved northeast toward Bangladesh, weakening from a severe cyclonic storm to a cyclonic storm.

At least a dozen people were killed in Bangladesh as the cyclone hovered over the country's southwestern coast, delivering battering rain storms. Lighting killed at least six people, local newspapers and TV reported.

In India, where an unprecedented 1.2 million were evacuated from low-lying areas and placed in hundreds of shelters, India's National Disaster Response Force director S.N. Pradhan said three people were killed in the storm.

"The precautions that have been taken should be continued," he said, adding that downed phone lines mean that the extent of the destruction was yet to be known.

According to the Press Trust of India, one victim was a teenager killed by a falling tree in the district of Puri, a popular tourist area in Odisha. Another woman was killed while fetching water when she was struck by flying debris loosened from a concrete structure.

Another woman, age 65, died after a suspected heart attack at a cyclone shelter, PTI reported.

Widespread power outages, damaged water supplies and roads blocked by fallen trees and power lines have made transport around the affected area difficult, officials said.

According to Mohammad Heidarzadei, an expert on storms and cyclones at Brunel University of London, the cyclone packed sustained wind speeds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour when it made landfall in Odisha, equivalent in strength to a Category 4 hurricane.

Heidarzadei said that historically, most people killed in cyclones were struck by wind-swept debris.

"It is essential that public avoid going out as much as possible and take safe refuge inside their houses to save their lives," he said.

(KA)