India

S.Asian storm death toll rises to 17, many missing

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By Mohammad Nurul Islam

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi and Indian rescuers said on Friday they found the bodies of six more victims of a cyclone that lashed their coasts earlier this week, bringing the death toll to 17 and the number is expected to rise.

Hundreds are believed to be missing from the storm that hit on Tuesday and which has claimed 14 lives so far in Bangladesh and three in India's east.

Bangladesh authorities said five more bodies were fished out of the Bay of Bengal and 50 fishermen rescued from choppy seas, but many more were still missing and the country's navy would conduct searches for at least two more days.

A navy ship had found 30 of the fishermen alive and adrift on Thursday, indicating that hundreds more may still be unaccounted for, said police officer Mozammel Hossain from Cox's Bazar, 420 km (260 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka.

Indian coast guard ships and aircraft scanned the Bay for missing boats and fishermen on Friday but had found none.

Fishing community leaders in Bangladesh said they believed most of the missing would return alive.

"In the past, we have seen people returning alive from the sea even three to four weeks after storms," said one leader Abul Bashar at Cox's Bazar.

Indian relief officials in Calcutta said they were searching for 122 fishermen reported missing since the storms hit.

"Several boats are still missing. But we are hopeful that some missing fishermen will contact authorities soon. At least two got in touch with local authorities today (Friday)," West Bengal Relief Secretary Nikhilesh Das told Reuters.

One Indian fisherman's body was recovered on Thursday night by police near the coastal town of Kakdwip, 100 km (60 miles) south of Calcutta, in West Bengal state, he said.

The cyclone first hit West Bengal on Tuesday, killing two people, before heading to Bangladesh where it claimed nine more lives.

Heavily populated, low-lying coastal areas of eastern India and Bangladesh are vulnerable to storms from the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh's worst cyclone was in 1991 when at least 138,000 people were killed.

In 1999, at least 10,000 people were killed in the Indian state of Orissa when a cyclone hit its coast.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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