A 45-minute storm packing winds up to 120 kph (75 mph) killed at least 68 people along the India-Bangladesh border. As well as loss of life, the cyclone knocked down communication links in West Bengal state's North Dinajpur district after midnight, authorities said. About 50,000 houses could have been damaged in the severe storm and the death toll is sure to rise, a district official said. Hundreds of people have been taken to hospital with severe injuries."The storm has damaged more than 11,000 mud, tin and concrete homes in Rangpur district alone - many of the houses were completely demolished. It was a huge storm and we are still assessing the damage," Rangpur district administrator BM Enamul Haq told the Agence France Presse news agency. "The storm ripped through four blocks of North Dinajpur district, about 600 kilometres north of Kolkata," said West Bengal minister of state for civil defence Srikumar Mukherjee. "Most of the victims were buried under the collapsed walls of their homes," he told Sky news.
Two people are reported to have died in neighbouring Bangladesh, including a police officer who was crushed under a collapsed wall. Schools and government offices are being used to shelter those left homeless and aid is being rushed to the area. The worst-hit villages are Hematabad, Raiganj and Kiran Dighi. It was followed by heavy rains that added to the problems of villagers whose housetops had been blown away, said a BBC correspondent. Most of Uttar Dinajpur district is without power because electricity poles collapsed after trees uprooted by the storm fell on them. Telecommunication links have been severely hit, railway lines damaged and roads closed.
The storm was an extreme form of what locals call a "nor'wester", a weather pattern that develops over the nearby Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year. Temperatures have been unusually high across much of northern India since the start of the month and more than 40 people have died from heat related conditions in the eastern state of Orissa. The region lies in a humid-subtropical zone, and has hot summers from March to June, the monsoon from July to October and mild winters from November to February. The whole region receives heavy, sustained rainfall during the monsoon months.
In May last year more than 155 people were killed by Cyclone Aila, which hit West Bengal and Bangladesh.