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Bangladesh Twister Kills Hundreds Government Accused Of Poor Response By Storm Survivors

Wed., May 15, 1996

Tearing tin roofs to shreds and turning tree branches into deadly missiles, a tornado racing at 125 mph killed more than 440 people and injured more than 32,000.

In less than a half-hour, Monday’s twister flattened 80 villages.

As the extent of the disaster unfolded Tuesday, the survivors accused the government of failing to provide emergency assistance and local hospitals of turning away victims. In all, at least 443 people were killed and more than 32,000 injured, according to local officials.

The tornado struck hardest in Tangail district, 45 miles north of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

At least 120 of the dead were from Bashail, a village where the victims included students in a boarding school building that collapsed on top of them, said Irsat Jahan, the local administrator.

Death came in other forms too.

“When the killer storm came, I saw the tin roofs of homes cut into pieces and flying everywhere,” said Reazuddin Ahmed, a 45-year-old weaver from Rampur village.

When the sky darkened and the winds began to howl, Ahmed said he gathered his wife and three children near a cement wall alongside a road near their home and prayed to be spared.

There they watched the tornado toss the village’s many wooden and tin-roofed houses into the air and reduce several larger buildings, including a movie house, to rubble.

Tornadoes are common in the tropical delta of Bangladesh during April, May and June, leading up to the annual monsoon in July.

At least 130,000 people died when a cyclone pounded the southern coast in 1991, causing more than $2 billion damage.

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