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33 die as cyclone hits India, Bangladesh

A CYCLONE slammed into parts of Bangladesh and eastern India yesterday, triggering tidal surges and flooding that forced some half a million people from their homes and killed almost three dozen people.

Storm officials in coastal Bangladesh moved about 500,000 people to temporary shelters after they left their homes to escape huge tidal waves churned by winds up to 100 kilometers per hour.

Heavy rains triggered by the storm also raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta in the neighboring eastern Indian state of West Bengal. The affected area is home to hundreds of thousands of people as well as the world's biggest tiger reserve.

Indian Oil Corp suspended operations at its mooring facility at Paradip port in eastern India, while authorities shut down operations at Bangladesh's main ports of Chittagong and Mongla.

The cyclone killed at least 33 people, including 18 in West Bengal, officials from the two countries said.

Most victims either drowned or were killed in house collapses or crushed under uprooted trees.

The cyclone and tidal waves damaged roads and embankments and leveled standing crops over vast areas, officials said.

"Another high tide is due. We fear that the situation may deteriorate," police inspector Mohammad Belayet Hossain said from Bangladesh's coastal Bhola district.

Salahuddin Chowdhury, a Bangladesh cyclone official, said: "Nearly 500,000 people who fled homes have been sheltered in several hundred shelters in eight coastal districts so far."

About 400,000 people remained marooned in Sundarbans. "No assistance could reach them because of stormy conditions and turbulent rivers," said Kanti Ganguly, state minister for the Sundarbans.

"Our village is submerged, we are living in camps and have no clue what further calamity awaits us," one villager told reporters by phone.

Heavy rain caused flooding in the streets of state capital Kolkata.

Tidal waves triggered by the storm in the Bay of Bengal damaged thousands of houses in Bangladesh, mostly in Khulna district near the Sundarbans.


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