Cyclone Aila claims 217 lives

DHAKA : The death toll from a cyclone which tore through southwestern Bangladesh and eastern India hit 217 on Thursday 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 147 people were killed and around 6,000 injured in Bangladesh, and 70 more died in India, officials told AFP.

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 about 650 endangered Bengal tigers, conservationists were searching the area for tiger casualties.