Kolkata, India (BBN) – At least 21 persons were killed and more than 100,000 people affected when a cyclone ‘Aila’ hit coastal areas of the country’s eastern state of West Bengal on Monday.
The highest number of 14 deaths in West Bengal was reported from South 24 Parganas district, followed by five in Kolkata and one each in Bankura and Howrah districts, officials said, adding that most of the deaths occurred when houses and trees collapsed.
Unofficial reports, however, put the toll at 26 and the number of affected at over 200,000.
“The cyclone, now lying stationery 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Kolkata, hit West Bengal coast at 1:30 pm (local time) near Sagar Island. It is moving in a northerly direction and will weaken gradually, Regional Meteorological Centre Director G C Debnath, said.
Disaster Management Minister of the state Mortaza Hosain said parts of the state capital, Kolkata, were “severely affected” and the city had come to a standstill, with many key roads blocked by uprooted trees.
While five people were killed in Kolkata, the remaining casualties were reported from coastal Parganas district, Howrah and Bankura. Officials said most of the deaths occurred when houses and trees collapsed.
Authorities had warned people to stay indoors and fishermen were warned not to venture out to the sea.
The Indian army and police were pressed into rescue operations in the coastal North and South Parganas districts, which were believed to have been worst-hit by the cyclone.
BBN/SS/SI/AD-26May09-3:01 am (BST)