Severe cyclone hits eastern Indian coast; 2 killed

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A severe cyclone damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles Thursday in eastern India, where two people were killed and nearly 300,000 moved to higher ground.

The cyclone named Titli, or Butterfly, had winds blowing up to 150 kilometers per hour (95 mph) when it came onshore, the India Meteorological Department said. It spread rain widely in coastal districts of Orissa state and also hit northern parts of neighboring Andhra Pradesh state.

A woman was fatally hit by an uprooted tree and a man was killed when his house collapsed in Srikakulam district following heavy rains, said Kinjarapu Acchan Naidu, the Andhra Pradesh labor minister.

Schools were closed and air and train travel curtailed in the region. Authorities also set up more than 800 cyclone and flood shelters stocked with food and relief materials.

Electricity and telephone links were lost in several towns and villages in Gajapati district and some roads were blocked, Orissa disaster relief official B.P. Sethi told reporters in Bhubaneshwar, the state capital.

The cyclone was likely to weaken further and become a deep depression by Friday, the meteorological department said in a statement.

Orissa state is prone to cyclones, which develop in the Bay of Bengal. In 1999, a devastating cyclone killed more than 15,000 people.

Bangladesh’s coastal districts were also warned to prepare for possible storm effects there. Boats were ordered ashore and inland ferries were told to suspend services.

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