At least 24 dead in Bangladesh from tropical storm

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A tropical storm that lashed Bangladesh left at least 24 people dead and about 8 million without power across the delta nation, officials and news reports said Tuesday.

The government said about 10,000 homes were damaged and more than 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of crops were destroyed. Thousands of fishing projects were also washed away.

The United News of Bangladesh news agency said about 20,000 people were marooned because of flooding triggered by tidal surges in the southern coastal district of Bhola.

Tropical Storm Sitrang brewed in the Bay of Bengal before turning north toward Bangladesh’s vast coast, prompting authorities to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to cyclone shelters Monday. Heavy rains battered the country throughout the day, flooding many areas in the coastal regions across southern and southwestern Bangladesh.

The storm weakened Tuesday afternoon, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour and wind gusts up to 85 kph (53 mph). The weather office in the capital, Dhaka, which had recorded gusts up to 88 kph (55 mph) Monday evening, said the danger had passed.

No flooding or major damage was reported in camps housing about 30,000 ethnic Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char island and another 1 million in Cox’s Bazar district, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled from neighboring Buddhist-majority Myanmar into Bangladesh to escape a military-led “clearance operation” in 2017. Myanmar security forces were accused of mass rapes, killings and torching thousands of homes owned by Rohingya.

A government official in Mirshorai in Chattogram, Minhazur Rahman, said divers found eight bodies on Tuesday after a dredger capsized in the Bay of Bengal on Monday night. The sea remained rough on Tuesday, he said.

Raihan Mehbub, an official in Cumilla district, said two parents and their 4-year-old daughter died after a tree fell on their home while they were sleeping late Monday night.

At least 13 others died in separate incidents across the country, Dhaka-based Somoy TV reported. Most died after being hit by falling trees, though others died because of collapsing structures or drowning, local media reported.

Nasrul Hamid, junior minister for power and mineral resources, said about 8 million out of a total of 48 million users remained without electricity after falling trees damaged distribution lines or electric poles were knocked over, mostly in rural areas.

He said power distribution across the country would not be normalized until Wednesday.

Enamur Rahman, junior minister for disaster management and relief, said about 10,000 homes were damaged or destroyed across the country.

Authorities reopened three airports on Tuesday after suspending their operations for 21 hours.

On Monday, the government halted operations of all river vessels across the country, closed the three airports and asked fishing boats to return from the deep sea and remain anchored in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh is a delta nation of more than 160 million people and is prone to natural disasters such as floods and cyclones.

Climate scientists say climate change is a factor behind many natural disasters in Bangladesh and other South Asian nations.

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