Cyclone Fani Barrels into Bangladesh, Killing at least Nine

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Cyclone Fani, one of the biggest to hit India in years, barreled into Bangladesh on Saturday after leaving a trail of deadly destruction in India.

Some 400,000 people have been taken to shelters, Bangladeshi officials told AFP news agency.

Eight people reportedly died in India, and Bangladeshi police said nine perished even before the eye of the storm rumbled over the border in the morning.

Fourteen villages were inundated as a tidal surge breached flood dams. The dead included a minor in Barguna district on the coast and five others killed by lightning.

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“We are mooring our boat because it’s the only means of income for us. Only Allah knows when we can go back to fishing again,” Akbar Ali, a fisherman near the town of Dacope in Bangladesh, told AFP while battling surging waves to tie his boat to a tree.

We speak with Dhaka-based journalist Hasan Abdullah over measures being taken by the government as the monster storm moves towards Bangladesh.

With the storm weakening but still packing a punch, winds of up to 70 kilometres (45 miles) per hour and heavy rain battered overnight and on Saturday morning the Indian state of West Bengal and its capital Kolkata, including the Sundarbans mangrove forest area.

“It’s a total mess in the islands of the Sunderbans as the cyclone has destroyed everything in its path, fuelling fears rivers could burst their banks and leave vast areas underwater,” said Manturam Pakhira, Sunderbans affairs minister.

“Locals spent a sleepless night and many came out of their thatched huts and stood on the river banks measuring the level of the water,” Pakhira said.

“Several homes have been flattened, roofs blown off, electric poles and trees toppled.”

Several hundred thousand people were told to evacuate coastal areas of West Bengal before the arrival of Fani (“snake” in Bengali), with 5,000 leaving the low-lying areas and old, dilapidated buildings of Kolkata, home to 4.6 million people.

“Nearly a dozen people were trapped as an old building in the northern part of the city has collapsed,” Kolkata’s mayor Firhad Hakim said.

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“They have been rescued and shifted to a safer place.”

Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal’s chief minister and a key figure in India’s ongoing mega-election, cancelled all political rallies and set up an improvised control room in a hotel in the path of the storm.

Kolkata’s international airport was ordered closed. Train services were also halted.


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