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Bangladesh cyclone death toll tops 3,000

More than 1,000 are missing, officials say, and bodies are discovered by the hour in rivers and paddies.

November 20, 2007|Nurul Alam | Special to The Times

CHITTAGONG, BANGLADESH — The death toll from Cyclone Sidr rose to more than 3,000 Monday as rescuers moved into more remote areas to retrieve victims of the deadliest storm to hit this nation in more than a decade.

Government officials said that 3,113 were dead and more than 1,000 were missing, and that the figure could rise as the search continued.

A private TV channel reported that 3,800 were dead. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, which is carrying out rescue and relief operations in the southern coastal area, said it thought the toll might rise by thousands, based on field reports.

Reuters reporters said bodies were being discovered by the hour in the rivers and paddies and under piles of debris.

"The tragedy unfolds as we walk through one after another devastated village," said relief worker Mohammad Selim in Bagerhat, one of the worst-hit areas. "Often it looks like we are in a valley of death."

Grieving families begged for clothes to wrap relatives for burial. In some areas, they put bodies in mass graves.

The cyclone struck Thursday, wrecking villages with 150-mph winds.

Brig. Gen. Kazi Abidus Samad, head of an army operation in Dhaka, the capital, said about 100 tons of relief goods were dispatched to survivors.

People scrambled for scarce food and water as the aid helicopters reached them, witnesses said.

Pledges of assistance from donor countries continued to pour in, officials said. Samad said a U.S. Marine team and aid officials arrived to assess damage.

"We will accept if [the] U.S. offers to help us in post-cyclone operations, including rescue, relief and rehabilitation," he said.

Rescuers and residents said a stench from corpses and rotting vegetation hung over the region.

"Dead animals littered the coastal villages," said Syed Shahidul Alam, a resident of Sarufkati.

Pulin Kumar Singha, civil surgeon for the Barisal district, said, "We are getting some reports of diseases spread among the survivors due to [unsanitary] drinking water. But we are trying to take preventive measures."

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