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Disaster crews assess damage caused by Cyclone Phailin

BHUBANESWAR, India, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Disaster teams Sunday launched relief missions in eastern parts of India to assess damage caused by Cyclone Phailin, officials said.

The cyclone, which packed up to 125 mph winds as it made landfall Saturday, destroyed homes, uprooted trees, damaged roads, and forced as many as 1 million people to flee in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states, the BBC reported. At least seven people were killed, authorities said.

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"We've just started to assess the damage and coastal areas will have fared worse," said Upendra Malik, a crew leader in Bhubaneswar, Odisha's state capital.

Phailin weakened Sunday and moved northwest.

Officials said they were confident that a massive loss of life was avoided because of the of precautions taken before the storm hit. Authorities in Bhubaneswar launched a massive campaign before Phailin made landfall to evacuate residents, the BBC said.

The Indian Army's National Disaster Response Force has sent 1,200 troops had been sent to Odisha and 500 to Andhra Pradesh to help with recovery efforts, officials said.

"As soon as the fury of the cyclone abates our boys will start their work," NDRF director general Krishna Chaudhary told the BBC. "The teams have medical first responders [for first aid] and heavy cutting equipment. In the case of cyclones there is a likelihood of collapsed buildings."

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Meanwhile, 18 fishermen who were trapped in a fishing boat during the storm safely returned home Sunday, the Press Trust of India reported.

The men were trapped about 2.5 miles off the coast of Paradip during Phailin. Odisha State Revenue Minister S.N. Patro said the men jumped from the boat and swam to shore.

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