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Cyclone toll climbs to nearly 120 in S. Asia

NEARLY 120 people have been killed by a cyclone that ripped through Bangladesh and eastern India, officials and media said yesterday, while millions remained in shelters or were marooned by floodwaters.

The death toll in Bangladesh rose to at least 89 following recovery of more bodies, the Daily Star newspaper said in its online edition, while Indian officials said at least 29 people had died in West Bengal state.

Cyclone Aila slammed into parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday, triggering tidal surges and flooding that forced 500,000 people from their homes.

Officials in Bangladesh moved about 500,000 people to temporary shelters after they left their homes to escape huge tidal waves churned by winds up to 100km/h.

Heavy rain 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.

In Bangladesh, the worst affected area was the Satkhira district, near the port of Mongla, where an official said 17 bodies were found in one village.

"The situation here is alarming, and the confirmed death toll in the district is 23. But it may go up," said Mohammad Abdus Samad, deputy commissioner of Satkhira.

Aila swept many areas still recovering from Cyclone Sidr in November 2007, which killed 3,500 people in Bangladesh and made at least 1 million homeless.

Bangladesh officials said at least 100 people were missing after Monday's cyclone.

Some aid workers, requesting not to be identified, said they feared several hundred people might have been killed by Aila, which followed a less lethal cyclone Bijli in April.

In West Bengal, the Indian army and government aid workers yesterday began an operation to provide relief to more than 400,000 people marooned in the Sundarbans delta region.

Officials in West Bengal said at least 29 people died in the cyclone, mostly from house collapses, electrocution and falling trees.


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