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. Ferocious cyclone hits Bangladesh coast

by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Nov 15, 2007
A powerful cyclone packing winds of up to 240 kilometres (155 miles) an hour has hit Bangladesh's southern coast, the director of the country's meteorological department told AFP Thursday.

"The cyclone has battered Bangladeshi coastal areas. The centre of the cyclone is crossing the Khulna-Barishal coast near the Baleshswar river," Samarendra Karmakar said.

The area is close to Bangladesh's border with the Indian state of West Bengal, which is also expecting highly destructive winds and torrential rains.

Cyclone Sidr, visible in satellite images as a huge swirling white mass over the Bay of Bengal, was also expected to unleash tidal surges of up to six metres (20 feet) in some areas.

"The velocity of the wind in that area is 220 to 240 kilometres. There is a violent storm," the official said, but added that few details were emerging from the area.

He said most people there should already have been evacuated or are in cyclone shelters or government buildings.

The coastal area is home to many poor fishing communities, as well as the Sunderbans, a vast mangrove forest straddling the India-Bangladesh border and the natural habitat of endangered Royal Bengal tigers.

Officials in both Bangladesh and India have been racing to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from the area over the past 48 hours.

In 1970, some half a million people died when a cyclone hit Bangladesh, while an estimated 138,000 people died in a cyclonic tidal wave in 1991.

The lower death toll in 1991 was attributed to a network of cyclone shelters and a warning system introduced after the 1970 disaster.

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Cyclone poised to slam into Bangladesh, eastern India
Dhaka (AFP) Nov 14, 2007
A cyclone packing high winds and heavy rains could slam into Bangladesh as early as Thursday and India a day later, forecasters said.

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