Dhaka, Nov 18: The death toll in cyclone-hit Bangladesh is likely to cross 1,800, even as thousands of survivors were still waiting for relief aid today.
On Saturday, Bangladeshi authorities pegged the death toll at 1,784, but added that the figure could rise as more rescuers reach ravaged areas.
With a wind speed of up to 240 kph, the cyclone roared in from the Bay of Bengal just before dusk on Thursday, killing over a thousand and damaging homes and crops.
The Bangladesh military along with the help of domestic and foreign navy assistance has stepped up relief and rescue operations.
Several international organisations and donors have also extended help to devastated Bangladesh. M Shakil Anwar of CARE said that his organisation would hire local country boats for rescue works. The World Food Programme is providing emergency food rations to 400,000 people. Teams from the government, the Red Crescent and other NGOs have also been pressed into service in affected areas.
According to government estimates, at least 1.5 million villagers have moved away from their coastal dwellings to shelters on higher ground where they are receiving emergency rations.
The worst hit area was Bagerhat District, where 610 people died, said Ashraful Zaman, an official at a cyclone-monitoring centre in Dhaka. Experts believe that now the affected areas of the country may face food shortages and problem of safe drinking water.
The Bangladesh Government this time managed to save huge number of lives due to early warning program, UN Resident Coordinator Renata Dessallien said in a statement.
The Ministry of Disaster Management said that an estimated 2.7 million people were affected and 773,000 houses were damaged, roughly 250,000 cattle and poultry perished, and crops were destroyed along huge swaths of land.
The government has allocated 5.2 million dollars in emergency aid for rebuilding houses, a government statement said.
Several countries have pledged to help. The German government offered 731, 345 dollars, while the European Union released 2.2 million dollars in relief aid. The Rome-based World Food Program was rushing in food, and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society was sending thousands of workers to stricken areas.
Washington has sent two US Navy amphibious assault help authorities in relief and rescue operations. The USS Essex and USS Kearsarge, each carrying helicopters, hovercraft and equipped with hospital facilities, have been dispatched, pending a formal request for help from the Bangladesh authorities, said Major David Griesmer, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.
According to rescuers and volunteers, it would take weeks to assess the actual death toll, financial loss, and days to reach relief to people who have been forced to live under the open skies.
Over 40,000 policemen, soldiers, coast guards and health workers have been deployed along the coast for rescue operations. Southern Bangladesh is often hit by cyclones, but experts say the latest is a category four storm, the most powerful so far in the season.
In Bangladesh, 500,000 people died in a 1970 cyclone. A similar storm claimed 143,000 lives in 1991.