Friday, November 16, 2007

Cyclone batters Bangladesh: REUTERS

DHAKA, Nov 16 (Reuters) - At least nine people died and dozens were missing as a super cyclone packing winds of 250 kph (155 mph) battered vast areas of the Bangladeshi coast overnight, early reports said on Friday.

"The cyclone has caused a havoc in all coastal districts and we will start getting details in few hours," one Satkhira official said.

Hundreds of fishing boats caught in Cyclone Sidr failed to return to shore, and trees and power poles were uprooted disrupting communication and electricity supplies, officials said.

"We have been virtually blacked out all over the country," said a disaster management official in southern Mongla, one of the worst affected areas.

Another official in Mongla said strong winds and heavy rains were still buffeting the area. "We are unable to give a loss estimate immediately."

Television news reports said more than 100 fishing boats in the Bay of Bengal had to failed to return to shore despite repeated storm warnings given over the radio.

"They are missing and we don't know if and when they will come back," said an official in Barguna coastal district.

Five people died in the town of Barisal, including four from one family, after buildings collapsed. Two others died in Bhola and two more in Satkhira districts, local officials said.

Sixteen Bangladeshi fishermen went missing after their fishing boat sank in Cox's Bazar, a resort town some 400 km (250 miles) southeast of Dhaka, a local fishing association said late on Thursday.

Rescued fishermen from Myanmar told Bangladeshi officials that 12 of their compatriots had drowned at sea. They were among a group of fishermen aboard four fishing boats which were smashed into shore by the cyclone, rescuers in Teknaf, a town 500 km (310 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka, said.

Cyclones can cause immense devastation in disaster-prone Bangladesh, a low-lying country of more than 140 million people. The latest cyclone triggered 5-metre (16 feet) high water surges in many of the affected districts.

It washed away hundreds of thatched homes, destroyed crops and killed livestock.

Storms batter the poor south Asian country every year. A severe cyclone killed more than half a million people in 1970, while one in 1991 killed 143,000 people. (Additional reporting by Reuters stringers in Barisal and Khulna; Editing by David Fox)

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