Cyclone kills 89 in eastern India

Thursday, April 15, 2010

CALCUTTA, India -- A cyclone packing winds of more than 100 mph demolished tens of thousands of mud huts in northeastern India, killing at least 89 villagers, officials said Wednesday.

The cyclone struck close to midnight Tuesday in northeastern parts of West Bengal and Bihar states, uprooting trees and snapping telephone and electricity lines, West Bengal Civil Defense Minister Srikumar Mukherjee said. Hundreds of people were injured and many thousands left homeless.

Devesh Chandra Thakur, Bihar state's Minister for Disaster Management, said there was no cyclone warning from the weather department, so villagers were unprepared.

Television footage showed uprooted trees lying across shanties and sheets of corrugated metal ripped from the roofs of homes. Small children sat outside their damaged huts as parents tried to salvage their belongings from inside.

Namita Biswas, 51, a housewife in West Bengal, said she and her husband were sleeping in their hut when it was crushed by a tree that broke from the impact of the cyclone. Her husband was killed.

The cyclone demolished nearly 50,000 mud huts in West Bengal and thousands more in Bihar, officials said.

The worst-hit villages in West Bengal state were Hematabad, Raiganj and Kiran Dighi, where police and rescue teams have recovered 39 bodies, Ramanuj Chakraborty, a senior local official said.

Another 50 people were killed in the northeastern Bihar districts of Araria, Kishenganj and Purnea, according to government officials.

By Wednesday evening, authorities had begun rushing medical teams and food supplies to the cyclone-hit area, Ramanuj Chakraborty, a West Bengal official said. Temporary shelters were also being set up for those who had lost their homes, he said.

A prison wall collapsed in Bihar's Araria district, forcing authorities to shift more than 600 inmates to another prison, officials said.

In neighboring Bangladesh, tropical storms lashed dozens of villages in the northern part of the country Wednesday killing at least five people and injuring dozens, news channel Desh TV reported. The storms in Rangpur and neighboring Lalmonirhat district also demolished about 500 mostly mud-and-straw huts, the report said.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment, but the weather office in the capital Dhaka said the storms were not related to the cyclone that struck eastern India. Such storms are common in the tropical delta nation.

Associated Press reporter Indrajit Singh in Patna, India, and Farid Hossain in Dhaka, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

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