Fri, May 29, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Cyclone kills 231 in India, Bangladesh

AFP AND DPA , DHAKA AND NEW DELHI

The death toll from a cyclone that tore through southwestern Bangladesh and eastern India hit 200 yesterday as villagers began returning to their homes to assess the damage, an official said.

Cyclone Aila slammed into the coast of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal on Monday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless after a tidal surge washed away villages, roads and livestock.

At least 131 people were killed and around 6,000 injured in Bangladesh and 100 more died in India, officials said.

Bangladesh government disaster control spokesman Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman said the worst-hit areas were closest to the Indian border but deaths and damage occurred across 14 districts on the southern coast.

Around 220,000 mud and bamboo houses were washed away while another 300,000 were damaged, he said.

“Military and civil relief workers were initially unable to deliver food, fresh water and shelters to the regions worst affected, but supplies are now getting through,” he said.

About 20 of those killed in the Indian state of West Bengal died a day after the storm in mudslides caused by rainfall in the hill resort of Darjeeling, the state’s chief secretary Asoke Mohon Chakraborty said.

In the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles both countries and is home to between 200 and 650 endangered Bengal tigers. Conservationists were searching the area for tiger casualties.

The low-lying region frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season.

In India’s West Bengal, the affected regions faced a severe drinking water crisis while power-outages led to protests in the state capital Kolkata, news reports and officials said yesterday.

Three days after the cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal region, vast areas remained submerged, affecting a total of 5.1 million people.

Among the worst-hit districts were the coastal South 24 Parganas and the North 24 Parganas districts where 36 deaths had occurred, government figures showed.

Twenty-six people died in the famed Darjeeling tea district in northern Bengal after the cyclonic system caused heavy rains, triggering landslides on Tuesday.

Kolkata and nine other districts also reported deaths. Most of the victims were killed as houses and trees collapsed, officials said.

The state government carried out rescue operations in the coastal Parganas districts where large swathes of land still lay submerged.

The putrid smell of rotting animal carcasses rent the air and saline water from the sea got mixed with river water to inundate villages, leading to a drinking water crisis in the districts.

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