Cyclone Aila lashes eastern India, Bangladesh

A cyclone slammed into the coastal areas of eastern India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 17 people and leaving thousands homeless, according to officials.

A cyclone slammed into the coastal areas of eastern India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 17 people and leaving thousands homeless, according to officials.

Cyclone Aila rolled into the region, with 110-km/h winds forcing authorities to shut down operations at ports in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, said B.K. Bandhopadhyaya, an official at the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi.

Mud embankments in West Bengal burst as heavy rains swelled the rivers, officials said.

The storm uprooted trees and brought down communication lines in Calcutta, West Bengal's state capital.

Tourists along the southern coast in the resort region of Digha were being told to stay inside.

"The situation is very grave, countless families have been displaced, especially in the Sundarbans," Sundarbans state minister Kanti Ganguly told Reuters.

At least 10 people died in West Bengal because of collapsed buildings and fallen trees, officials said.

Tidal waves

Meanwhile, the storm triggered tidal waves in the Bay of Bengal that slammed into low-lying coastal Bangladesh, damaging thousands of houses, officials said. At least seven people are believed to have been killed in the surges, said officials.

Thousands of people were evacuated from the Khulna district ahead of the storm but about 15,000 people are believed to still be stranded in eight flooded villages, authorities said.

"Thousands of families have been moved to shelters and many left on their own," Salahuddin Chowdhury, an official of the Cyclone Preparedness Centre in Chittagong, told Reuters.

Shrimp farms were also washed away by the waves and rice fields were covered in water.

The storm began to weaken in the evening, said G.C. Debnath, an official at the local meteorological office.

But the Bangladesh Meteorology Department said the ports at Chittagong, Mongla and Cox's Bazar will remain closed until further notice.

With files from The Associated Press