Thousands of survivors await aid in Bangladesh
Published Sunday, November 18, 2007 10:43PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 7:12PM EDT
The death toll has passed 2,300 from the cyclone that devastated part of Bangladesh, but some warn it could exceed 10,000 as rescue workers continue to search through stricken areas.
On Sunday, rescuers continued to fight to reach survivors of Tropical Cyclone Sidr, which struck Thursday with winds of 240 kilometres per hour.
The number of confirmed dead has risen steadily as officials made contact with coastal regions that had been cut off by the storm.
Dhaka's Sangbad newspaper put the death toll at more than 4,000, based on accounts from its correspondents in affected areas, but the report couldn't be independently verified.
Bagerhat district is one of the worst hit, with 610 deaths.
The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society said the total could reach 10,000 once it is able to contact outlying islands.
Hundreds of thousands of survivors are awaiting aid as they sit in destroyed homes or flooded fields.
In Barguna, one of the hardest hit districts, Asad Ali, a 45-year-old farmer, said his five-year-old daughter had been fatally crushed beneath their toppled thatched hut.
He said a helicopters drop packages of food, but mobs swarm below them whenever they're spotted.
"I've been waiting for hours for something to eat," he said. "What I've got so far are a few cookies."
International aid agencies and civilians are working with Bangladesh's military to provide food and medical aid.
The United Nations and international aid agencies met Sunday with Bangladesh's disaster management secretary Aiyub Bhuiyan.
"The donors wanted to know about our plan and how they can come forward to stand by the victims," Bhuiyan told reporters. "We have briefed them about what we need immediately."
Aid organizations are fearful about food shortages and contaminated water leading to widespread shortages.
Government officials defended relief efforts, expressing confidence in authorities.
"We have enough food and water," said Shahidul Islam, a top official in Baherhat, a district close to Barguna. "We are going to overcome the problem."
An estimated 2.7 million people have been affected in the country of 150 million. An estimated 773,000 homes were damaged.
Hundreds of thousands of cattle and poultry died, and crops were destroyed over a wide area.
The UN has released US$7 million in emergency aid. Britain will give $5 million, the European Union $2.2 million and the United States $2.1 million.
In his Sunday blessing, Pope Benedict asked for "every possible effort" to help the cyclone victims.
With files from The Associated Press