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Cyclone kills at least 82 in India and Bangladesh

KOLKATA/DHAKA : The most powerful cyclone to strike eastern India and Bangladesh in over a decade killed at least 82 people, officials said, as rescue teams scoured devastated coastal villages, hampered by torn down power lines and flooding over large tracts of land.

Mass evacuations organised by authorities before Cyclone Amphan made landfall undoubtedly saved countless lives, but the full extent of the casualties and damage to property would be known only after communications were restored, officials said.

In the Indian state of West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said yesterday that at least 72 people had perished - most of them either electrocuted or killed by trees uprooted by winds that gusted up to 185kmh.

In neighbouring Bangladesh, the initial toll was put at 10.

"I have never seen such a cyclone in my life. It seemed like the end of the world. All I could do was to pray... Almighty Allah saved us," Mr Azgar Ali, 49, a resident of Satkhira district on the Bangladesh coast said.

Mr Mohammad Asaduzzaman, a senior police official in the area, said the storm tore off tin roofs, snapped power lines and left many villages inundated.

Television footage shot in West Bengal showed upturned boats on the shore, people wading through knee-deep water and buses crashed into each other. More images showed villagers trying to lift fallen electricity poles, fishermen hauling their boats out of a choppy sea, and uprooted trees lying strewn across the countryside.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a tweet expressing concern over the people suffering in West Bengal.

"Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by Cyclone Amphan. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal," he said.

The airport in Kolkata, West Bengal's state capital, lay under water and several neighbourhoods in the city of 14 million people have had no electricity since the storm struck, according to residents.

The cyclone came at a time when the two countries are battling to stop the spread of the coronavirus. - REUTERS

WORLD