By Sujoy Dhar Sujoy Dhar Fri May 29, 5:03 am ET
KOLKATA, India (Reuters) – Millions of people in India and Bangladesh remained marooned without food or water on Friday, four days after cyclone Aila hit them, and authorities said disease was becoming a serious problem.
The cyclone killed at least 275 people, but officials say the toll could mount due to epidemics in the aftermath.
Cyclone Aila hit parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India Monday, triggering tidal surges and floods and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes.
It caused extensive damage to rice and other crops but officials say they were still assessing the losses.
In the communist-ruled Indian state of West Bengal, at least 5.1 million people were displaced, with more than one million people stranded in Sundarban islands alone, most of them without any food or water, officials said.
At least 100 people have died in the eastern state.
"The situation is alarming and we need a lot of help to combat the outbreak of water-borne diseases," Kanti Ganguly, a senior West Bengal minister, told Reuters Friday.
Heavy rains triggered by the cyclone raised river levels and burst mud embankments in the Sundarbans delta, causing widespread flooding and triggering landslides.
The Indian Air force air-dropped supplies to remote islands in the Sundarabans Friday, and people scampered to grab packets of pre-cooked food, water and medicines, witnesses said.
"We are carrying out sorties every day and we have been able to cover some remote places today," Mahesh Upasani, a defense ministry spokesman, said in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.
In Bangladesh, more than three million people have been hit by the cyclone, and cases of diarrhea have broken out, due to an acute scarcity of drinking water.
The death toll from cyclone Aila in Bangladesh touched 175 after 15 bodies were found Thursday, mostly in southwestern Satkhira district, local officials and aid workers said on Friday.
Officials said hundreds of people were missing in the 15 affected districts, mostly on the coasts, where survivors desperately need food and drinking water.
The cyclone also killed a large number of cattle, adding to the woes of farmers still trying to get back on their feet after cyclone Sidr in November 2007 killed 3,500 people in coastal districts.
(Additional reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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