Strong cyclone kills at least 12 in southern India


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NEW DELHI (AP) — A strong cyclone over the southeast Arabian Sea triggered heavy rains and strong winds in southern India, damaging hundreds of huts, power lines and trees and killing at least 12 people, officials said Saturday.

More than 2,000 people have taken shelter in relief centers in Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts in Tamil Nadu state and in Lakshadweep, a group of 36 islands, officials said.

The India Meteorological Department said heavy rains and strong winds lashed Lakshadweep on Saturday.

At least 12 people have been killed in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states since Friday, state-run All India Radio reported. Krishan Kumar, a relief agency spokesman, said the casualties were mainly caused by falling trees and power lines.

The cyclone, with gusts of up to 175 kilometers (110 miles) per hour, is expected to weaken on Monday after recurving in the Arabian Sea, according to India's Meteorological Department.

Television images showed parts of Kanyakumari district flooded and without electricity, with severe damage to power lines. In Kanyakumari and Thoothukudi districts, strong winds uprooted more than 500 trees, snapped power lines and damaged settlements close to the sea.

More than 530 fishermen stranded in choppy waters have been rescued off Kerala state and the Lakshadweep islands, said Pinyari Viayan, Kerala's top elected official.

Rescue operations were underway, with the Indian navy, air force and coast guard searching for dozens of fishermen unaccounted for in the Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam coastal area, said the New Delhi Television news channel.

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