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Rescuers struggle to reach survivors

Dhaka, Nov. 19 (Reuters): Four days after super cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people in Bangladesh, rescuers struggled today to reach isolated areas along the country’s devastated coast to give aid to millions of survivors.

“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.”

The confirmed death toll from the cyclone reached 3,113 by today, while 3,322 are injured and 1,063 missing, Lieutenant-Colonel Main Ullah Chowdhury said in Dhaka.

He added that two C-130 aircraft of the US Marine Corp arrived in Dhaka last night with medical supplies.

Media reports said the death toll had already crossed 3,500, and was likely to rise sharply.

“We are trying to reach all the affected areas on the vast coastline as soon as possible, then we will know how many people exactly have died,” a government official said.

While it would take several days to determine the number of dead and missing, about 3 million survivors who were either evacuated from the low-lying coast or whose homes and villages were destroyed would need support, the government said.

Aid workers fear inadequate supplies of food, drinking water and medicine could lead to outbreaks of disease.

“Food, shelter and medicine are badly needed for the survivors,” Renata Lok Dessallien, UN Resident Representative in Bangladesh said after visiting cyclone-hit areas. Grieving families begged for clothes to wrap around the bodies of dead relatives for burial.

Reuters reporters said bodies were being discovered by the hour in the rivers and paddy fields and under piles of debris. The head of the army-backed interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, flew to devastated areas today to reassure victims that his administration would provide enough aid.

“Your courage in facing the disasters like cyclones and floods give us strength and reinforce confidence in our ability to do the best we can,” he said in Patuakhali, one of the badly hit districts.

Cyclone Sidr smashed into the coast of southern Bangladesh late on Thursday with 250kmph winds that whipped up a five-metre tidal surge. In its wake, bodies of people and animals floated down rivers and the stench of death filled the air. Relatives tried to identify and bring them ashore, before burying them hurriedly without proper ceremonies.

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