Sixteen dead as Cyclone Remal hits India, Bangladesh

Strong gales and heavy rain brought by Cyclone Remal have lashed the coastlines of India and Bangladesh, with the storm killing at least 16 people and cutting electricity supply to millions before losing intensity.

The cyclone is the first for 2024 of the frequent storms that have pounded the low-lying coasts of the South Asian neighbours in recent years as climate change drives up surface temperatures at sea.

Packing speeds up to 135km/h, it crossed the area around Bangladesh's southern port of Mongla and the adjoining Sagar Islands in India's West Bengal late on Sunday, weather officials said, before weakening on Monday morning.

The official death toll mounted in both countries as information arrived from coastal regions.

At least 10 people lost their lives in Bangladesh, disaster management chief Mijanur Rahman told Reuters, without providing details.

Two were killed as they headed to cyclone shelters, Rahman earlier said, adding that authorities would need more time to gauge the full extent of losses.

"People are usually very reluctant to leave their livestock and homes to go to cyclone shelters," he said.

Onlookers watch a raging Hooghly River in Kolkata, India
Remal packed speeds up to 135km/h as it crossed the coast. (AP PHOTO)

"They wait until the last minute when it is often too late."

In India's West Bengal state, four people died due to electrocution, authorities said, taking the death toll in the state to six.

One person was crushed to death by falling concrete in the state capital of Kolkata, while a woman died when a mud home collapsed on the island of Mousuni in the Sundarbans delta.

Bangladesh shut down electricity supply to some areas in advance to avoid accidents, while in many coastal towns fallen trees and snapped electricity lines further disrupted supply, power ministry officials said.

Nearly three million people in Bangladesh were without electricity, officials said.

West Bengal authorities said at least 1200 power poles were uprooted, while 300 mud huts had been razed.

Fierce winds also blew the roofs off some tin and thatched houses.

The rain and high tides damaged some embankments and flooded coastal areas in the Sundarbans, home to some of the world's largest mangrove forests, which is shared by India and Bangladesh.

Rain flooded roads disrupted travel in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, where authorities gearing for the storm set up nearly 8000 cyclone shelters and drafted in 78,000 volunteers.

Rain brought by the storm flooded many streets in Kolkata, television images showed, with reports of wall collapses and at least 52 fallen trees.

Kolkata resumed flights after more than 50 were cancelled from Sunday. Suburban train services were also restored.

Both nations moved nearly a million people to storm shelters, about 800,000 in Bangladesh and roughly 110,000 in India, authorities said.