Bangladesh Asks for More Foreign Aid for Cyclone Survivors as Death Toll Passes 3,100

Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 5:40 am
By: News On 6

PATHARGHATA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Bangladesh sought more foreign aid Tuesday to help thousands of survivors after Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,100 people, according to an official tally that still was expected to rise.

Food, fresh water and temporary shelter still had not reached many of the hungry and exhausted survivors of the storm that tore across the country's coast last Thursday.

``At this time we will welcome support from the international community,'' said a statement from Bangladesh foreign ministry. ``We are doing as best as we can do ourselves.''

The government said international aid worth about $120 million has so far been promised. But relief items such as tents, rice and water have been slow to reach most survivors of the worst cyclone to hit Bangladesh in a decade.

In Patharghata, a hard-hit trading town on the Bay of Bengal, more than 100 women _ many of them clad in veils _ gathered Tuesday hoping to get supplies.

``I've been waiting here for several hours hoping to get some food and drinking water,'' said Safura Begum, 45, who has three children. ``But I'm not sure it will come.''

``Some biscuits and a few bottles of water are what I've gotten in the past three days,'' she said.

The government is using helicopters to deliver aid to survivors _ many of whom are still living without shelter. Some relief agencies are also using boats to ferry relief to remote pockets.

Mike Kiernan, spokesman for the charity Save the Children, stressed that even those that survived the storm might still be lost to its aftermath.

``Just the fact that people were able to survive this does not mean they will survive the second wave of death that comes from catastrophes like this: from lack of clean water, food, basic medicines and shelter,'' Kiernan said.

On Thursday night, Nasima Begum, 30, woke up to howling winds and high waves rolling from the sea into her thatched hut near Patharghata. Before her house collapsed she managed to gather her children and fight her way through the water to a nearby tree. She held on to the tree and asked the children to cling to her body.

``We were there for almost an hour before the storm subsided and the water began to recede. I don't know how I survived. But Allah has helped us,'' she said.

By Monday the official death toll stood at 3,113 after reports reached Dhaka, the capital, from storm-ravaged areas that earlier had been largely cut off because of washed-out roads and disrupted phone services, said Lt. Col. Main Ullah Chowdhury, a spokesman for the army.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the Islamic cousin of the Red Cross, has suggested the final figure could be around 10,000 once rescuers reach outlying islands.

Every year, storms batter Bangladesh, a delta nation of 150 million people, often killing large numbers of people.

A similar cyclone in 1991 killed 139,000 people along the coast. The most recent deadly storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people.