Bangladesh wants relief coordination after storm

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DHAKA, Nov 25 (Reuters) Bangladesh's army chief called for coordination in relief operations today, as many survivors remained without adequate aid nine days after a cyclone ravaged the impoverished South Asian country.

Despite intensified relief operations by the government and local and foreign groups, thousands of survivors hoping for food were crowding river banks and roadsides, witnesses said.

''Please coordinate with us, so that we can dispatch your relief goods to the survivors who need it most,'' General Moeen U. Ahmed told local donors today.

Cyclone Sidr, which hit on November 15, killed about 3,500 people, left thousands missing or injured, and displaced some 2 million.

Moeen said US navy ships had arrived to conduct relief operations for survivors in coordination with the Bangladesh government.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge was in Bangladeshi waters to assist the authorities and another ship, the USS Essex, was due to arrive soon, US embassy officials said.

Each ship carries about 20 helicopters, which will help in delivering water, food and medical supplies to remote areas in the south and southwestern regions, officials said.

A pair of Marine helicopters carried 750 gallons (3,410 litres) of bottled waters today from the USS Kearsarge to the southern coastal city Barisal, marking the first delivery of aid by the US military.

Bangladesh relief officials said the two ships would start full-fledged relief operations from tomorrow.

''If we can utilise the huge capabilities of the US ships, we can successfully conduct a useful relief operation for the survivors,'' Moeen said.

Thousands of hungry survivors continued to throng river banks and roadsides in cyclone-torn coastal areas, reporters at the scene said by telephone.

Many of the survivors came from remote areas hoping for food handouts from the government and non-governmental organisations, which often do not visit remote areas lacking road communication.

''Coordination among relief distributors is a problem,'' Heather Blackwell, Bangladesh representative of British charity Oxfam, told Reuters after visiting some of the worst-hit areas.

Bangladesh's airforce, flying relief sorties with 13 helicopters and planes, was unable to cope with all the problems in the cyclone-hit areas, officials said.


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