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Saturday, November 13, 1999 Published at 19:34 GMT

World: South Asia

Cholera epidemic feared in Orissa

The survivors face a cholera epidemic

The authorities in the devastated eastern Indian state of Orissa are taking precautionary measures against a cholera epidemic in the wake of the country's worst cyclone.

Close to 50 cases have been detected in the region, but the state's health secretary, Meena Gupta, told journalists that there was no reason for panic.

Orissa: After the storm
"People who are marooned are suffering from diarrhoea diseases, cough and fever," she said.

"Although the number is not alarming, we have to be careful as cholera spreads very rapidly. We cannot be complacent. We are trying to take all measures to see that things are under control."

More than 9,000 died after a powerful cyclone ripped through the coastal districts of Orissa at the end of last month.

District authorities have committed themselves to clearing all the corpses by 20 November. Throughout the state, piles of bodies are being cremated in giant pyres.

There are fears the final death toll could reach 20,000, as more bodies are uncovered. But some say the figure may never be known because many bodies were washed out to sea.

3,000 missing

Indian troops travelling in boats are reported to have reached an area of severe destruction not entered since the cyclone hit.

[ image: A soldier guarding relief supplies]
A soldier guarding relief supplies
Reports say soldiers entered Ambiki County and found no trace of six villages that once housed some 3,000 people.

The Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes said on Friday that all possible resources would be used to rebuild the ravaged state.

He told reporters that defence forces would continue to help in the relief effort for as long as was necessary.

The government in Orissa has been accused of not responding fast enough to the storm, which swept in from the Bay of Bengal on 29 October with winds of up to 300km/h (190mph).

Millions of people lost their crops, homes and access to clean water and health services. Reports said about 175,000 cattle perished in the cyclone.

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