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5/27/2009

Millions displaced by cyclone in India, Bangladesh

KOLKATA, India, May 27 (Reuters) - Cyclone Aila has displaced millions of people in India and Bangladesh, only a fraction of whom have access to food and drinking water, officials said on Wednesday.

Image: Flood-affected people move to safer places after receiving relief supplies on the outskirts of Siliguri in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

The cyclone has killed at least 210 people in the flood-prone region, though officials said the death toll could rise, and rescuers have struggled to reach millions still marooned. Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday, triggering tidal surges and floods.

Officials say more than one million people have been displaced in India's Sundarban islands in West Bengal state alone, one of the world's biggest tiger reserves and which is already threatened by global warming.

Heavy rain triggered by the storm raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta, destroying hundreds of thousands of houses and causing widespread flooding in the eastern state, and triggered landslides. Global warming experts say rising sea levels have seen the fragile Sundarbans lose 28 percent of its habitat in the last 40 years.

Nearly 2.3 million people have been displaced and tens of thousands have moved to government shelters in West Bengal, the aid agency Save the Children told AlertNet
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