With lowland areas still reeling from last week's devastating cyclone, storms brought new misery to Bangladesh as a tornado leveled villages and factories and claimed dozens of lives.
Rescuers found at least 34 bodies buried under collapsed buildings or tossed into muddy rice paddies, Luf-tar Rahman Khan, a junior Cabinet minister, said Wednesday. A local magistrate said 50 people were killed, and the toll was likely to rise as the search continued.Government officials said 400 people also were injured in the twister that tore a nine-mile path outside Dhaka about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The tornado destroyed concrete factories in an industrial area near Tongi, eight miles north of Dhaka, and caused widespread damage in at least 13 other villages.
An earlier report by the government-owned Dainik Bangla newspapers said 50 people died and 1,200 were hurt in the seven-minute tornado.
Sufia Aktha, 25, recovering at a medical clinic in Joydevpur, said that when she saw the dark funnel approaching she threw her 18-month-old son on the floor and covered him with her body.
"In a few seconds, the house was tossed into the air like a toy," she said. She later found her husband's body 100 yards away on the edge of a pond, and the body of another son was in a rice field.
Schools, houses and small factories were leveled. A ceramics factory was reduced to cinder blocks just 90 minutes after its 1,000 employees finished work. The night watchman was sliced in two by a flying piece of metal, workers at the factory said.
Tongi was not in the path of the April 30 cyclone, which struck the southeastern coast and killed 125,730 people according to the official death toll.
But some newspapers said the total would probably surpass 225,000. One paper, the government-owned Dainik Bangla, said the total was believed to be 500,000.
That would bring the death toll to the level of the 1970 cyclone, previously the worst natural disaster in the low-lying nation on the Bay of Bengal.
Relief workers said at least 18 million survivors were threatened with disease, including cholera, and starvation in the aftermath of the cyclone's 145 mph winds and 20-foot waves.
The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization said Wednesday that the cyclone caused extensive damage to Bangladesh's rice fields and decimated livestock herds. Rice is the country's most important food crop.
The second-ranking Foreign Ministry official, Riaz Rahman, said the government had received pledges of cash, food and other assistance worth $200 million from 20 countries. About half the pledged funds - $106 million - come from Saudi Arabia, he said.
The United States has contributed $2.1 million and said Tuesday it would give an additional $5 million.