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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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Fourteen people killed and others missing as Cyclone Bulbul hits India and Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, six people were killed – five by falling trees – and at least 20 people were injured.

Image: Bikas Das

FOURTEEN PEOPLE HAVE died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh bringing gale force winds and torrential rain.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120km per hour when it hit late on Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Seven people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, the Press Trust of India reported, including two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by falling branches in Kolkata.

An eighth person died under a collapsed wall in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, six people were killed – five by falling trees – and at least 20 people were injured.

Five others are missing after a fishing trawler sank in squally weather on Meghna river near the southern island of Bhola, district administrator Masud Alam Siddiqui said.

The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, disaster management secretary Shah Kamal.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun said.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

© AFP 2019

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