Bangladesh delivers aid, slowly, to storm survivors

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MISSIONBARIA, Bangladesh, Nov 28 (Reuters) Keramat Ullah was among dozens of people lined up on a Bangladeshi riverbank today who received their first supplies of rice, medicines and a blanket, two weeks after a cyclone destroyed their homes ''We have been coming here every day, thinking that a boat will bring food,'' the elderly farmer said in Barguna district, one of the areas on the southern coast that was badly hit by the November 15 cyclone.

Volunteers from Concern, a foreign non-government organisation, finally showed up today with food and medicines that was quickly disbursed among the hundreds massed on the riverbank.

''There are too many, for us to be able to satisfy,'' said a volunteer, pointing to the survivors scrambling for the relief packets.

Relief supplies and aid pledges have poured into the impoverished country from around the globe, but it has been slow in reaching the survivors, partly because many of them are in remote areas.

US military helicopters and Bangladesh air force planes have dropped food, water and medicine to tens of thousands of people along the country's devastated coast, but survivors remain at risk from disease and malnutrition.

Reporters travelling through the affected areas said the queues of people awaiting relief supplies grew longer each day. Thousands of families made homeless by the cyclone squatted on the highway, some under makeshift shelters.

DEVASTATION Flattened homes, crumpled crop fields and uprooted trees in villages along the southern coast are a stark reminder of the devastation wrought by Cylone Sidr.

Nearly 3,500 people were killed.

It was the worst disaster in the low-lying country since 1991, when a cyclone and storm surge killed about 143,000 people.

Many villages are deserted and in some others groups of people sit around rows of newly-dug graves grieving for their loved ones lost to the storm.

Many young wives of fishermen are still waiting for their husbands to come back from sea.

''I don't believe he has died,'' said Aklima Begum, 24, as she sat on the Bishkhali river bank. ''God cannot be so cruel to make my children fatherless,'' she said, as her three-year-old girl sat nearby.

Since the storm struck, there has been no electricity in Barguna district town, about 270 km (168 miles) from the capital Dhaka, and the local hospital operates by candlelight.

The streets are crammed with rickshaws with lanterns. ''This can only be called a ghost city,'' said Sanjeeb Das, a local reporter.

REUTERS PD KN1600

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