Bangladesh cyclone kills 1,100

Updated: 2007-11-17 07:11

DHAKA: A severe cyclone has killed at least 1,100 people in Bangladesh and left thousands injured or missing, the United News of Bangladesh reported on Friday.

The situation has triggered an international relief effort to help the disaster-prone country cope with its latest tragedy.

Thousands more were left homeless after Cyclone Sidr struck overnight packing winds of 250 kph.

The Category 4 cyclone triggered a 5-meter high tidal surge that devastated three coastal towns and forced 3.2 million people to evacuate, officials and aid agencies said.

"The death count is rising fast as we get more information from the affected districts," a food and disaster ministry official said.

A grandmother holds a newborn baby who was named Cyclone after he was born during the cyclone in front of her damaged hut in Barishal, 120 km south of Dhaka on Friday.  [Agencies]

Dhaka and all other major cities across the country were plunged into darkness at sunset. Many power plants and most distribution systems were damaged by the cyclone and it could take three more days to restore services, power department officials said.

The tidal surge inundated Patuakhali, Barguna and Jhalakathi, cutting off communication links to the three towns.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Geneva 1,000 fishermen were missing.

"Significant damage is expected. However, information collection on casualty and damage figures is still very much in the early stages," OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

Most deaths were caused by collapsing houses and flying debris, officials in Dhaka said.

At least 150 trawlers have been reported missing. Though authorities had broadcast repeated storm warnings, many of the missing boats might have been small vessels without radios.

Across the devastated region, trees and power poles were uprooted, disrupting communication and electricity supplies.

"We have been virtually blacked out all over the country," said a disaster management official.

The Bangladeshi navy launched search and rescue operations, while four helicopters loaded with emergency relief supplies have been dispatched to some of the worst-hit areas, officials said.

Around 30,000 volunteers mobilized by Bangladesh Red Crescent used bullhorns, beat drums as well as a special flag system to spread evacuation warnings, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in Geneva.

By early Friday the storm had weakened to a tropical storm and had moved well inland northeast of Dhaka, drenching the rest of the country with rain.


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