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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Tornado hits Bangladesh

A powerful tornado has killed at least 20 people and injured hundreds of others in eastern Bangladesh.

Officials say the tornado hit several remote villages in the district of Brahmanbaria on Sunday night, leaving a trail of destruction.

A senior district official, Motiur Rahman, told the BBC that the storm had flattened the whole of Noabadi village close to the border with India.

He said hundreds of mud and thatched houses in Noabadi village were destroyed and trees uprooted during the storm even though it only hit the village for less than 10 minutes.

Still missing

Mr Rahman said it took 12 hours to get the first report of the destruction caused by the tornado as Noabadi has no road network or telephone connections.

A relief team has left for the village this morning with food, medicine and other emergency supplies.

Reports say several people in Brahmanbaria district are still missing.

The weather is a frequent cause of death in Bangladesh.

Last month more than 130 people died when two overcrowded ferries sank in heavy storms.

As a result, thousands of ferries were banned from sailing in the afternoon and evening when the weather is at its most volatile.

Last year the International Red Cross said Bangladesh's progress in dealing with natural disasters had saved millions of lives over the last decade.

Bangladesh has one of the worst records in the world for natural disasters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by floods and cyclones, as well as tidal surges, tornadoes, droughts and even cold spells.

But according to the report, the construction of cyclone shelters and speedy evacuation procedures have dramatically improved the country's preparedness.

The biggest killer by far has been cyclones.

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