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Tornado Leaves 13 Villages In Shambles and Destroys More Lives With PM-Bangladesh, Bjt

May 8, 1991

JOYDEVPUR, Bangladesh (AP) _ The air was oppressive with heat and heavy with dust when a black funnel cloud came roaring out of the purple sky from the northwest.

In seven minutes Tuesday night, the tornado bulldozed a path through 13 villages and an industrial zone, blasting apart bamboo and mud homes, razing concrete factories and leaving at least 34 people dead and hundreds injured.

The tornado was an added measure of misery to a nation stunned a week earlier by a mighty cyclone on its southeastern coast that killed nearly 126,000 people by official count.

The twister struck around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, cutting a nine-mile path of destruction north of Dhaka. It hit this industrial area on the outskirts of the capital and ripped through villages where 65,000 people live.

″When I saw the cloud coming I rushed into the house for shelter,″ said Sufia Aktha, 25. She threw herself on the floor on top of her 18-month-old son and waited for the shock. When it hit, her bamboo and mud house was blown away from above her.

″It came in seconds and the house was tossed in the air like a toy,″ she said, sitting in a torn and filthy sari on a wooden stool in a medical clinic, where she was being treated for a broken left arm.

In the rain, she said, she found her husband’s body lying at the edge of a pond 100 yards away. She discovered the body of her 10-year-old son in a muddy rice paddy nearby.

″Oh Allah, why me, why did it happen to me?″ she wailed repeatedly as she told her story. But as she sobbed, she accepted and breast-fed the infant of a neighbor whose mother had been killed.

Luftar Rahman Khan, a junior Cabinet minister involved in the cyclone relief program, surveyed the tornado damage with a sullen and exhausted look. He spoke of the casualty toll but was reluctant to talk further.

The tornado ripped off the corrugated tin roof of a ceramics factory and reduced its concrete walls to heaps of debris, just 90 minutes after 1,000 workers finished their shift and went home.

Workers said the night watchmen was sliced in two by a flying piece of metal.

Kazi Alauddin, a 50-year-old villager being treated for head wounds, said his 12-year-old grandson died when his house collapsed on top of him. His daughter and the boy’s mother, Nurjahan, sat at her father’s feet at the clinic, pounding the ground with her fists and wailing.

Raushanara Begum said the storm came like a ″fireball″ against the backdrop of a sky that had turned the deep purple. She hid under a wooden bed and somehow survived as the storm uprooted the shanties all around her.

Tornadoes are an annual threat in Bangladesh, a low-lying, overcrowded nation of 110 million people precariously built on the deltas of three Himalayan-fed rivers.

In 1981, a twister killed 1,000 people just 20 miles west of Tuesday’s tornado. Two thousand people died in a cyclone-tornado combination in 1989.

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