Image: Flooding caused by cyclone Aila strands tens of thousands of Indians
Piyal Adhikary  /  EPA
Indian villagers flee floodwaters after Cyclone Aila hit the region, stranding tens of thousands of people.
updated 5/27/2009 7:22:24 PM ET 2009-05-27T23:22:24

Heavy rains caused deadly mudslides and slowed rescue efforts Wednesday after Cyclone Aila pounded eastern India and Bangladesh, killing at least 191 people.

The cyclone destroyed thousands of homes and stranded millions of people in flooded villages before it began to ease Tuesday. The death toll will likely rise in both countries as rescue workers reach cut-off areas.

Mudslides in India's famed Darjeeling tea district killed at least 22 people overnight, said Asim Dasgupta, the finance minister of the worst-affected West Bengal state in India.

The official death toll in India stood at 78 by Wednesday, Dasgupta told reporters, adding about 2.3 million people were affected or stranded in flooded villages.

Bangladesh's Food and Disaster Management Ministry said the toll there was 113 after more bodies were found. Most victims drowned or were washed away when storm surges hit coastal areas.

Soldiers have been deployed to take food, water and medicine to hundreds of thousands of people stranded in flooded villages, Bangladeshi Minister Abdur Razzak told reporters Wednesday. In India rescuers evacuated more than 41,000 people by Wednesday, Dasgupta said.

At least 500,000 villagers were affected or stranded, mostly by flash floods caused by tidal surges, said Ziaul Alam, the local administrator in Bangladesh's Khulna district.

Fears over fate of tigers
The cyclone also caused damage in the Sundarbans, a tangle of mangrove forests that is home to one of the world's largest tiger populations.

Video: Cyclone floods villages, kills scores Conservationists expressed concern over the tigers' fate.

At least one tiger from the flooded reserve took refuge in a house. Forest guards tranquilized it and were planning to release it once the waters subside, said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, which assisted in the operation.

It is believed about 250 tigers live on the Indian side of the Sundarbans and another 250 live on the Bangladeshi side.

Conservationists in India said water levels were too high for ecologists and forest officials to enter the area and assess the extent of the damage.

N.C. Bahuguna, a senior Indian conservation official, said water sources were likely contaminated by salt water from the sea.

Abani Bhushan Thakur, a local forest department official in Bangladesh, said there were no reports of damage or casualties in their part of the Sundarbans mangrove forests.

More on: Cyclone | India | Bangladesh

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Photos: Cyclone chaos

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  1. Flood-affected villagers collect food packets dropped from an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter on Patharpatima Island in the Sundarbans delta, about 62 miles south of the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Wednesday, May 27. Nearly 200 people have been killed by a cyclone that ripped through Bangladesh and eastern India, while millions remain marooned by floodwater or forced to live in shelters. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A Bangladeshi man and children rest on a cart after falling sick as they await treatment at Ashasunee village in Shatkhira, 110 miles southwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Wednesday. Heavy rains caused deadly mudslides and slowed rescue efforts following Cyclone Aila. (Pavel Rahman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A family leaves their village in South Bengal, India on Tuesday after Cyclone Aila ripped through the area. Millions were left homeless by the deadly storm. (Piyal Adhikary / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Cyclone victims dry personal items outside their destroyed homes on Patharpatima Island in eastern India on Tuesday. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Victims await relief supplies inside a school building converted into a relief camp in the Sundarbans delta area of India. The area was hit hard by Cyclone Aila. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Victims survey the damage to their house on Patharpatima Island in the Sundarbans delta of India on Tuesday. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Water gushes through a collapsed embankment in Gabura, Satkhira, Bangladesh on Tuesday. (Abir Abdullah / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Higher ground becomes a respite for people receiving relief supplies on the outskirts of Siliguri in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Tuesday. (Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Umbrellas made of palm leaves become shelter as rain clouds loom over the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, India on Monday. (Biswaranjan Rout / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Strong winds batter a commuter in Calcutta, India after Cyclone Aila makes landfall on Monday. (Piyal Adhikary / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A homeless woman and her son take shelter inside a pipe in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Monday. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A tree uprooted in the cyclone crushes a truck in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Monday. (Jayanta Shaw / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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