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Powerful Cyclone Lashes Bangladeshi Coast

A powerful cyclone that slammed into Bangladesh's southern coast Thursday is slowly making its way across the country, after leveling thousands of houses and forcing more than 600,000 people to evacuate.

Gale-force winds of up to 240 kilometers per hour caused storm surges that inundated low-lying areas that are home to poor villagers and fishermen. Power and telephone links in the affected areas have been largely cut and coastal areas plunged into darkness.

So far, one death has been reported.

Cyclone Sidr is expected to head towards the center of Bangladesh near the capital, Dhaka and then further west towards India's West Bengal region.

Hundreds of thousands of people in both Bangladesh and India have been sent to shelters set up in schools, mosques and public buildings.

Intense storms batter Bangladesh every year, killing hundreds of people.

In 1970, a cyclone killed around half a million people. Twenty-one years later, a cyclone left about 140,000 people dead.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.