Aid arrives after cyclone kills 121 in India

CALCUTTA, India (AP) — Aid workers distributed rice, dried fruit, water and tarpaulins Thursday to victims of a ferocious cyclone that killed at least 121 people in northeastern India and demolished ten of thousands of mud huts.

Rescuers cleared hundreds of uprooted trees and electricity poles blocking roads to the devastated areas in Bihar state, said Sharwan Kumar, a state administrator. Telephone services also were restored in most of the region after a 30-hour interruption.

Twelve bodies were found Thursday in Purnea district, raising the death toll in Bihar state to 82, Kumar told The Associated Press.

Survivors began clearing debris from their homes and repairing fallen roofs in Bihar and neighboring West Bengal state. Hundreds of poor villagers sheltered in government buildings where local officials set up relief centers.

Police and rescue teams recovered another 39 bodies in the worst-hit villages in West Bengal — Hematabad, Raiganj and Kiran Dighi — since Wednesday, said Ramanuj Chakraborty, a senior local official.

Packing winds of more than 100 mph (160 kph), the cyclone struck close to midnight Tuesday.

Hundreds of people were injured and thousands left homeless. They were caught unaware as there was no cyclone warning from the weather department, said Devesh Chandra Thakur, Bihar state's minister for disaster management.

"Most people were sleeping when the cyclone struck. They ran out of their homes into the open," said M.B. Shajuruddin, a 30-year-old teacher in Chhota Suhar, a village in West Bengal.

The storm destroyed most of the village's 500 tin-roofed huts and splintered trees.

"We have so far received no government help ... People are surviving on whatever they are left with," he said.

A top Bihar official said welfare officials handed tarpaulin sheets to victims to set up temporary shelters and distributed food, water and candles.

"Relief measures (and) food distribution have all been stepped up now ... and we are getting reports on the situation in remote areas," said Sushil Modi, deputy chief minister of Bihar.

Namita Biswas, 51, a housewife in West Bengal, said told The AP by phone she and her husband were sleeping in their hut when it was crushed by a tree. Her husband was killed.

The cyclone demolished nearly 50,000 mud huts in West Bengal and thousands more in Bihar, officials said.


Associated Press writers Indrajit Singh in Patna and Anupam Nath in Chhota Suhar contributed to this report.