DHAKA, BANGLADESH — Relief workers struggled yesterday to reach cyclone-devastated areas of coastal Bangladesh and a top aid official said the number of dead could reach 200,000. Some seaside regions, hit last week by a 20-foot tidal wave driven by 145-mile-an-hour winds, are still cut off.
Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest states, is reeling from the worst natural disaster in its 20-year history, with 10 million people reported homeless.
The confirmed number killed is more than 125,000.
"Many places are inaccessible and [the final number of dead] is anyone's guess," Ali Hasan Qureshi, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the main cyclone relief agency, told Reuters.
Bad weather, disrupted communications, and a shortage of boats and aircraft are slowing down rescue and relief work. It may be another week before the final tally of deaths and damage is known, officials and aid workers said.
A helicopter carrying Bangladesh Premier Begum Khaleda Zia, visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa made an emergency landing at a village 18 miles from Dhaka Sunday during a disaster inspection flight.
The helicopter was brought down by bad weather but returned safely to Dhaka after a 40-minute delay, the official BSS news agency said.
Mr. Sharif brought a first consignment of aid from Pakistan to Bangladesh - Pakistan's eastern region until it won independence in 1971.
The Red Crescent Society and other relief groups were working with the military to get food and medicine to the victims but were running short of equipment, money, and supplies.
The cyclone inundated vast farmlands just before harvest time when people's reserves of food were low, said Robin Needham, assistant country director of the international charity CARE.
Relief agencies dropped food, drinking water, and other essentials in packets on tiny parachutes to areas which could not be reached by any other means.