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Hundreds Killed by Cyclone That Hits Bangladesh

December 1, 1988

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A cyclone lashed low-lying coastal areas of Bangladesh and eastern India, killing at least 317 people and destroying crops ready for harvest, officials and news reports said Wednesday.

The United News of India news agency quoted unidentified officials in the capital city of Dhaka as saying more than 870 people were killed Tuesday by the storm, including 500 fishermen.

Strong winds hampered relief and rescue operations Wednesday, grounding helicopters.

The cyclone, packing 140 mph winds, brought heavy rain and whipped waves up to 15 feet.

Hundreds of mud huts used as homes by fishermen were destroyed. The toll was expected to rise when reports came in from hundreds of tiny islands in the Bay of Bengal, said officials in Dhaka.

″Extensive damage has been done to the crops ready for harvesting. Most mud and straw houses and tin-shed offices and school buildings have been leveled,″ said Abdul Muqtadir Ahmed, deputy commissioner of southern Khulna district, contacted by phone from Dhaka.

Khulna was the worst hit of seven districts affected by the cyclone.

Officials at the Cyclone Preparedness Center in Dhaka said the storm killed 288 people in southern Bangladesh. Press Trust of India news agency said 29 people died in the east Indian state of West Bengal.

Sources at the southern Chittagong port said the Singapore-registered vessel Pamir sank with 16 crew aboard. Port officials said the entire crew was presumed dead.

Food Minister Amjad Hossain said he expected the casualty figures to rise but that timely evacuation of thousands of people saved lives.

″There will be some casualties in the nearby islands, which have been swept by storm surges up to 10 feet high,″ said Ahmed.

A senior official in the president’s secretariat in Dhaka said volunteers of the Red Crescent, the Moslem equivalent of the Red Cross, evacuated thousands of people before the storm hit. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Announcements over public address systems blared every five minutes to warn residents of the storm’s progress. Fishermen were advised to find a safe place to anchor.

Officials at the Bangladesh metereological office said the other coastal districts of Patuakhali, Barguna, Barisal, Bhola, Bagerhat and Satkhira bore the brunt of the storm.

Chittagong, about 130 miles southwest of Dhaka, was battered by strong winds and rain. At least 275 fishermen on 19 boats were reported missing there.

Winds up to 75 mph hit Dhaka, a city of 6 million residents, causing extensive damage to power and telephone lines. The power outage disrupted city water distribution.

An official at the meteorological office said the storm weakened as it crossed Bangladesh and the northeastern districts of India.

Southern Bangladesh is barely above sea level.

Press Trust of India reported 24 deaths in the Parganas and Midnapore districts in West Bengal.

Quoting official reports, PTI said the cyclone caused extensive damage to crops and mud houses in the coastal areas.

″Our home kept rattling and shaking, we ran out of it when a section of it collapsed,″ said Ashim Kumar Dey in India’s Diamond Harbour area. Dey, 25, said three of his cows were trapped and killed in the house.

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