Cyclone Kills 40 In India, Bangladesh

By: AP
By: AP

(AP) The death toll from Cyclone Aila reached 40 on Tuesday after it lashed eastern India and Bangladesh and stranded thousands in their flooded villages, officials said.

The storm destroyed nearly 3,000 thatched and mud houses and toppled a large number of trees in nearly 300 villages across India's West Bengal state, said Kanti Ganguly, a state minister. He said 34 people were killed in West Bengal.

The cyclone also caused high waves to hit coastal areas in neighboring Bangladesh, killing at least six people, said a statement by Bangladesh's Food and Disaster Management Ministry. The country's leading newspaper, Prothom Alo, said tens of thousands of people were stranded as waters submerged their homes.

With the storm weakening overnight, authorities restored train and air service and reopened schools in most parts of West Bengal state on Tuesday, Indian officials said. Ganguly said soldiers were deployed on Monday night to evacuate stranded villagers.

Meanwhile, conservationists were worried about the fate of one the world's largest wild tiger populations.

Several rivers burst their banks inside the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, said Khalil Ahmed, the area's district magistrate. It is believed about 250 tigers live on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, a tangle of mangrove forests, and another 250 live on the Bangladeshi side.

It was difficult to assess the damage because water levels were too high for ecologists and forest officials to go into the area, said Mrinal Chatterjee, project director of the Institute of Nature Lovers and Climbers, an environmental group that works in the Sundarbans.

Thousands of residents were evacuated from the reserve.

The Indian Meteorological Department said a heavy rainfall was expected to lash India's northeast on Tuesday, with the cyclone weakening into a deep depression.

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