Cyclone lashes Bangladesh, India

DHAKA: A cyclone slammed into Bangladesh and India on Monday, damaging scores of homes and bursting dams that left at least 300,000 people marooned by flooding, officials said. In India, three people were killed. Bangladeshi government weather forecaster Sanaul Haq said Cyclone Aila made landfall between Bangladesh’s Khulna district and Sagar Island in India’s West Bengal state, unleashing a surge as high as seven feet. “The cyclone packed winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour. There are reports that a tidal surge has inundated many coastal villages,” the Bangladeshi official said. Around 100 villages along India’s eastern coast were under water, according to Bengal minister Kanti Ganguly. Officials had earlier evacuated around 100,000 people from the less populated Indian side of the Sundarbans mangrove forest. In Bangladesh, 400,000 people were moved from five districts to cyclone shelters and schools before the storm hit, with another 300,000 others stranded by flooding along the coast. “Dozens of levees have burst due to a tidal water surge as high as 12 feet, leaving at least 200,000 people stranded,” area chief Kazi Atiur Rahman told AFP. “The situation is very grave here. Hundred of mud-built houses and bamboo shacks have been washed away. Even the office where I am working is five feet under water,” he said. In Koyra, another area close to the Sundarbans, about 100,000 people were marooned after a nearby dam burst, sub-district chief Arif Pasha said. The surge has also flooded the town of Barguna, in the district of the same name, with other low-lying areas and islands in the vicinity also under water after levees overflowed, a local official said. District chiefs in neighbouring Satkhira, Patuakhali and Bagerhat said that they evacuated another 230,000 people as tidal surge along with strong wind and heavy rains hit the coastal villages. In November 2007, more than 3,500 people were killed when Cyclone Sidr hit the same districts, the second-strongest storm recorded in Bangladesh. The low-lying country frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season. The first of the season made landfall last month causing little damage. In 1970, some half a million people died when a cyclone hit the impoverished country.