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Cyclone displaces millions in India, Bangladesh

CYCLONE Aila has displaced millions of people in India and Bangladesh, only a fraction of whom have access to food and drinking water, officials said yesterday.

The cyclone has killed at least 210 people in the flood-prone region, though officials said the death toll could rise, and rescuers have struggled to reach millions still marooned.

Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday, triggering tidal surges and floods.

Officials say more than 1 million people have been displaced in India's Sundarban islands in West Bengal state alone, one of the world's biggest tiger reserves that is already threatened by global warming.

There were fears for the fate of more than 250 tigers in the reserve in Sundarban.

Global warming experts say rising sea levels have seen the fragile Sundarbans lose 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years.

Heavy rain triggered by the storm raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta, destroying hundreds of thousands of houses and causing widespread flooding, as well as landslides.

Nearly 2.3 million people have been displaced and tens of thousands have moved to government shelters in West Bengal, the aid agency Save the Children told AlertNet.

"There is water everywhere. We could reach aid to only 10 percent of the affected population. We could not even airdrop food packets because of the flooding," said Kanti Ganguly, West Bengal state minister for Sundarbans.

At least 135 people have died in Bangladesh and 75 in West Bengal, and hundreds are still missing, according to officials.

In Bangladesh, Aila destroyed tens of thousands of acres of crops.


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