The images are still fresh: rows of bodies wrapped in white and waiting to be cremated and a quarter of the city fleeing in panic.

For a few weeks after the plague hit in late September, frightened citizens showed a resolve to clean up the squalor that could breed the next epidemic and to wipe out the flea-infested rats that spread the medieval disease.But the effort seems to have been overwhelmed by India's unconstrained urban problems. Surat remains a prime example of the poverty, filth, overpopulation and pestilence that afflict India's cities.

"Right after the plague struck, the city changed. It was real clean," said Allen Johnson, an engineer from Albany, Ga., who often visits Surat to help build a steel mill.

"But three months after the plague, the city has gone back to square one," he said.

Pneumonic plague killed 58 people, most of them in Surat, a bustling industrial center in western India.

The World Health Organization declared India safe for travel on Oct. 25. But the threat is not over, said Dinesh N. Shah, the medical superintendent of the 740-bed Surat Hospital, where thousands of people were examined for suspected plague.

"We are required to maintain vigilance for six months and only then we can say that all is well," he said.

Little is heard any more of the sanitation campaigns that were launched in the slums of New Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta after the plague spread to other parts of the country.

Government officials in Surat, the center of India's $3.5 billion-a-year diamond-cutting industry and a major producer of artificial silk, say the anti-plague campaign is still under way.

"We are free from plague, but now our aim is to ensure that the terrible disease does not strike us again," said Pravin Grajla Trivedi, the top Surat official.

But the action being taken seems to be too little, and even comical.

Every evening on television, programs are interrupted for a two-minute lecture on the virtues of cleanliness - to keep away the plague.

Residents hold onto supplies of tetracycline, the antibiotic that cures the pneumonic plague.

"This is what saved us and this is what will save me in the future if, God forbid, the plague strikes us again," said Vittal Bhai Jamadar, pointing at the antibiotics inside his wooden shack.

The drugs can cure pneumonic plague if it is detected soon enough. The disease is spread by fleas from infected rats or coughs by infected people.

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Occasionally, rat poison and insecticide are sprayed on roads and garbage dumps. The city of 2.2 million people, where the cleaning staff of 3,000 has nothing but brooms, also plans to buy $1.7 million worth of cleaning equipment.

But Surat is a breeding ground for disease.

An estimated 16,000 food carts, many of them covered with flies, are back on the streets selling food.

Migrant workers wander into the city in search of work and live in ghettos. More than 750,000 people defecate in the open every day, and the slums have no drainage system.

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