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US ships on way to provide relief for cyclone-hit Bangladesh (Bangladesh Floods-Update)
Washington | November 17, 2007 6:12:34 PM IST
 
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Two US Navy amphibious assault ships are on their way to Bangladesh to help authorities in relief and rescue operations after the powerful Cyclone Sidr lashed the country's south and south-western regions on Thursday night.

With a wind speed of up to 240 kph, the cyclone roared in from the Bay of Bengal just before dusk on Thursday, killing over a thousand and damaging homes and crops.

The USS Essex and USS Kearsarge, each carrying helicopters, hovercraft and equipped with hospital facilities, have been dispatched, pending a formal request for help from the Bangladesh authorities, said Major David Griesmer, spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh military helicopters and ships have joined rescue and relief operations today.

According to the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management, the official death toll on Saturday was pegged at 932.

"The toll is rising fast, as we receive more information from outlying areas where telephone lines have been restored," said Mokhlesur Rahman, a ministry official in Dhaka, the capital.

Media reports state that over 1, 100 people are feared dead and thousands injured.

"I've never seen anything like this in my 47 years life," said Khalilur Rahman, another government official in Patuakhali, adding that it was a panic beyond description.

"People found no way but to keep on screaming as long as the cyclone ran rampage here," the Daily Star quoted him, as saying.

At least 650,000 coastal villagers have been moved to cyclone shelters and are receiving emergency rations, Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official, told reporters here.

According to rescuers and volunteers, it would take weeks to assess the actual death toll, financial loss, and days to reach relief to people who have been forced to live under the open skies.

The World Food Programme is providing emergency food rations to 400,000 people. Team from the government, the Red Crescent and other NGOs have also pressed into service in affected areas.

Over 40,000 policemen, soldiers, coast guards and health workers have been deployed along the coast for rescue operations.

Bangladesh's Home Ministry on Friday said that several districts could still not be contacted as telephones and communications were cut and reports of casualties were confused.

Southern Bangladesh is often hit by cyclones, but experts say the latest is a category four storm, the most powerful so far in the season.

In Bangladesh, 500,000 people died in a 1970 cyclone. A similar storm claimed 143,000 lives in 1991. (ANI)

 

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