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Cyclone kills 68 people in eastern India

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[April 20, 2010]  CALCUTTA, India (AP) -- A cyclone packing winds of more than 100 mph (160 kph) demolished tens of thousands of mud huts in northeastern India, killing at least 68 people, officials said Wednesday.

The cyclone struck Tuesday night in northeastern parts of West Bengal and Bihar states, uprooting trees and snapping telephone and electricity lines, West Bengal Civil Defense Minister Srikumar Mukherjee said. Hundreds of people were injured.

Television footage showed uprooted trees lying across shanties and sheets of corrugated metal ripped from the roofs of homes. Small children sat outside their damaged huts as parents tried to salvage their belongings from inside.

The cyclone demolished nearly 50,000 mud huts in West Bengal and more than 1,000 in Bihar, officials said.

The worst-hit villages in West Bengal state were Hematabad, Raiganj and Kiran Dighi, where police and rescue teams have recovered 31 bodies, Mukherjee told The Associated Press.

Another 37 people were killed in the northeastern Bihar districts of Araria, Kishenganj and Purnea, top Bihar state official Nitish Kumar told reporters.

The cyclone moved at a speed of more than 100 mph (160 kph), said N. Shravan Kumar, a Bihar state official.

A prison wall collapsed in Bihar's Araria district, forcing authorities to shift more than 600 inmates to another prison, Kumar said.

[Associated Press; By MANIK BANERJEE]

Associated Press reporter Indrajit Singh in Patna, India contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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