At least 700 people killed, hundreds missing in southern Bangladesh

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Dhaka, Nov 16 (UNI) More than 700 people were killed and hundreds missing in Bangladesh as a powerful hurricane with all its fire and ferocity pounded on country's south and southwestern regions.

Rescuers and survivors feared death toll may cross thousands as harrowing tales of death and destruction from remote and inaccesible islands started unfolding with the passage of time. Most remote islands remained cut off till tonight.

An official of the Food and Disaster Management Ministry so far confirmed the deaths of 233 people but said they could not get any information from several worst hit districts of Barguna, Pirojpur and Jhalkathi.

The terrible tropical storm code-named SIDR with a core of hurricane winds, packing a speed of up to 240 kph, crossed through Barisal-Khulna belt from the Bay early today, flattening thousands of houses, uprooting trees, snapping telephone and power lines.

Most parts of the country once again plunged into darkness this evening follwoing the outage in the national power grid.

Local administrations and media said some 241 people were killed in Patuakhali, 200 in Bagerhat where 300 went missing, 57 in Barguna, 28 in Jhalokathi, 21 in Barisal, 52 in Pirojpur, 18 in Madaripur, 21 in Gopalganj, 20 in Shariatpur and 11 in Khulna and 13 in Bhola.

A navy ship left for remote island of Dublarchar in Bagerhat to know the fate of more than 5,000 people mostly fishermen as the offshore island remained snapped since Wednesday evening and the local administration failed to contact them. In Sharankhola subdistrict of Bagerhat that bore the brunt of the cyclone SIDR some 200 people were feared washed away by tidal surge.

The rescuers said most deaths were caused by blown down trees and house collapses.

Low-lying areas of many coastal districts, even in towns, were inundated as storm surge whipped by raging winds.

Sundarbans forest official Shohidulla said a colossal damage was done to the Sundarbans mangrove forest by the "first hit" by the hurricane core of the powerful cyclone. "Our offices were damaged, boats capsized or washed away," he said.

Chief Advisor of interim government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed and army chief General Moeen U Ahmed visited the worst hit coastal districts by helicopter and ordered local administration to gear up relief operation.

Meanwhile, country's main sea port in southeastern Chittagong resumed functioning from today morning after 36-hour suspension due to the storm. Life in capital Dhaka started returning to nomal.


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