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Cyclone Fani death toll rises to 42 in India, Bangladesh

NEW DELHI, India – The death toll from a cyclone that battered India and Bangladesh rose to 42 on Sunday, May 5, as emergency teams raced to fix water supplies and roads devastated by the storm.

Twenty-nine of the dead were in eastern India's Odisha state and 13 in Bangladesh, officials in the two countries said – a fraction of the casualty numbers seen in past cyclones.

Cyclone Fani barreled into Odisha on Friday, May 3, packing winds up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) an hour before losing intensity as it headed towards Bangladesh.

Twenty-one deaths were reported in the Hindu pilgrimage city of Puri, said Odisha special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi.

"We are trying to confirm the identity of the victims but since communication lines have been hit, it is taking time," Sethi told Agence France-Presse.

The toll in Bangladesh included 6 people struck by lightning, disaster management official Golam Mostofa told Agence France-Presse.

Thousands of trees and mobile phone towers were uprooted and roofs were torn off by the storm. Many homes have now gone 3 days without power. 

Odisha state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced cash and rice handouts for victims in need. He said cooked food would be supplied to some communities for 15 days.

Fani was the first summer cyclone to hit India's Bay of Bengal coast in 43 years and only the third in the past 150 years, the chief minister said. Normally the storms hit around October and November.

India has earned praise from the United Nations and other experts for the speedy evacuation of 1.2 million people in the powerful storm's path and minimizing the loss of life.

Improved forecasting models, public awareness campaigns, and well-drilled evacuation plans – backed up by an army of responders and volunteers – saw Odisha's inhabitants spared the worst of Fani's fury.

In 1999 Odisha was hit by a super-cyclone that left nearly 10,000 dead. – Rappler.com