Bangladesh toll at least 1,723

Tropical Cyclone Sidr was the deadliest storm to hit in a decade.

Associated Press
Published November 18, 2007

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Hundreds of thousands of survivors were stuck Saturday behind roads blocked by fallen trees, iron roofs and thick sludge as rescue workers fought to reach towns along Bangladesh's coast that were ravaged by a powerful cyclone that killed at least 1,723 people.

Tropical Cyclone Sidr, the deadliest storm to hit the country in a decade, destroyed tens of thousands of homes in southwest Bangladesh on Thursday and ruined much-needed crops just before harvest season in this impoverished, low-lying South Asian country. More than a million coastal villagers evacuated to government shelters.

The official death toll rose to 1,723 and authorities feared the figure could rise further as the country works to recover.

The government scrambled Saturday to join international agencies and local officials in the rescue mission, deploying military helicopters, thousands of troops and naval ships.

Rescuers trying to get food and water to people stranded by flooding struggled to clear roads that were so bad they said they'll have to return on bicycles. "We will try again tomorrow on bicycles, and hire local country boats," M. Shakil Anwar of CARE said from the city of Khulna.

Along the coast, 150 mph winds flung small ferries ashore, cutting off migrant fishing communities that live on and around hundreds of tiny islands across a web of river channels.

Many of the evacuees who managed to return home Saturday found their straw and bamboo huts had been flattened by the storm.

The government has allocated $5.2-million in emergency aid for rebuilding houses in the cyclone-affected areas, a government statement said.

The German government offered $731,345 while the European Union released $2.2-million in relief aid. The World Food Program was rushing food to the country.