Bangladesh cyclone 224.8.
(photo credit: AP)
Aid workers struggled to help hundreds of thousands of survivors of a cyclone that blasted Bangladesh, killing a reported 1,100 people, savaging coastal towns, and leaving millions without power in the deadliest such storm in more than a decade.
Rescuers, some even employing the brute force of elephants, contended with roads that were washed out or blocked by wind-blown debris to try to get water and food to people stranded by flooding from Tropical Cyclone Sidr.
The damage to livelihood, housing and crops from Sidr will be "extremely severe," said John Holmes, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, adding that the world body was making millions of dollars in aid available to Bangladesh.
The 240 kilometer-per-hour (150 mph) winds wreaked havoc on the country's electricity and telephone lines, affecting even areas that were spared a direct hit, and leaving the full picture of the death and destruction unclear.
By late Friday, about 24 hours after the cyclone roared ashore, officials were still struggling to get reports from many of the worst-hit districts.
Dhaka, the capital city of this poor, desperately crowded nation of 150 million people, remained without power. Winds uprooted trees and sent billboards flying through the air, said Ashraful Zaman, an official at the main emergency control room.
The government's most recent announcement put the death toll at 242, but officials in the Dhaka control room had little up-to-date information. Dalil Uddin of the Ministry of Disaster Management said the official toll would go much higher.
The United News of Bangladesh news agency, which has reporters deployed across the devastated region, said the count from each affected district left an overall death toll of at least 1,100.
Holmes said his UN agency believes that more than 20,000 houses have been damaged in the hardest-hit districts, and that the death toll is expected to climb beyond the government's figures.
About 150 fishing trawlers were unaccounted for, he said.
Hasanul Amin, assistant director of the cyclone preparedness program sponsored by the government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, said about a dozen teams had been deployed to the worst-hit areas in the country's southwest.
But it was slow going. In the village of Sharankhola, some people waited for hours to get dry biscuits and rice, according to Bishnu Prasad, a United News of Bangladesh reporter on the scene.
"We have lost everything," a farmer, Moshararf Hossain, told Prasad. "We have nowhere to go."
Sidr spawned a 1.2 meter- (4 foot-) high storm surge that swept through low-lying areas and some offshore islands, leaving them under water, said Nahid Sultana, an official of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management.
At least 650,000 coastal villagers had fled to shelters where they were given emergency rations, said senior government official Ali Imam Majumder in Dhaka.
Bangladesh is prone to seasonal cyclones and floods that cause huge losses of life and property. The most recent deadly storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people.
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