URGENT Cyclone Kills 317 In Bangladesh, India
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A cyclone battered low-lying coastal areas of southern Bangladesh and eastern India, killing at least 317 people and razing hundreds of mud huts, officials and news reports said today.
At least 275 fishermen were repoprted missing in Bangladesh.
The casualty toll was expected to rise after reports arrived from hundreds of tiny islands and remote villages cut off after communication lines snapped during Tuesday’s storm.
Officials at the Cyclone Prepardness Center in Dhaka said that the cyclone killed 288 people in southern Bangladesh.
Press Trust of India news agency said 29 people perished in eastern India.
Sources at the southern port of Chittagong said that a Singapore registered vessel, the Pamir, sank in the cyclone with 16 crew on board. The fate of the crew members was not know, but port officials said they were presumed dead.
On the river Teesta, a boat caught up in the storm capsized near Bhairab, 45 miles northeast of Dhaka, and 20 of the 24 passengers were swept away and killed, an official said.
Food Minister Amjad Hossain said he expected the casulty figures to go up, but said timely evacuation of thousands of people had dimished loss of lives.
Abdul Muqtadir Ahmed, Deputy Commissioner for Khulna district in southwest Bangladesh, one of the areas hardest hit, said at least 21 people died there. Khulna district is about 110 miles southwest of Dhaka.
He said nine people died when an electric power pole fell over a house in Khulna. Another nine people died when a house collapsed near Mongla port, near Khulna, Ahmed said.
At least three others were killed in house collapses in the district.
A senior government official in Dhaka said Red Crescent volunteers evacuated thousands of people before the storm hit.
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 their boats.
Officials at the Bangladesh metereological office said the coastal districts of Patuakhali, Barguna, Barisal, Bhola, Bagerhat and Satkhira faced the brunt of the storm.
″Extensive damage has been done to the crop ready for harvesting. Most mud and straw houses and tin shed offices and school buildings have been leveled by the storm,″ said Ahmed, contacted by phone from Dhaka.
The port city of Chittagong, about 130 miles southwest of Dhaka, was battered by strong winds and rain.
Dhaka, a city of 6 million, was hit by winds up to 75 mph, causing extensive damage to power and telephone lines. The power outage disrupted the city’s 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, and there are hundreds of islands, some little more than sandbars.
At least 500,000 people died when a cyclone struck the area in 1970, and at least 10,000 were swept away in a 1985 cyclone.