Aid pours into Bangladesh after cyclone

Cyclone Sidr is the country's deadliest storm in a decade.

By , The Associated Press

Survivors are scrambling for food as rescue workers struggle to reach remote villages three days after cyclone Sidr battered Bangladesh, leaving more than 2,200 dead and thousands homeless.

Although Sidr has not been as devastating as previous cyclones that have pummelled storm-prone Bangladesh over the years, it is the country's deadliest cyclone in a decade, and relief officials are warning the death toll could jump sharply as rescuers reach more isolated areas.

Still, the death toll could have been much higher were it not for an early warning system that allowed at least 1.5 million coastal villagers to flee to shelters before the storm hit.

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Teams from international aid organizations are now working with Army troops in a massive rescue effort that is attracting help from around the world. But on the devastated coast, rescue workers struggled to reach many survivors.

"I've been here waiting for hours for something to eat," said Asad Ali, a 45-year-old farmer in Barguna, one of the hardest-hit districts. "What I've got so far are a few cookies. Not enough."

Squatting on a muddy field with his wife, Mr. Ali said their only child, a 5-year-old girl, was crushed and killed beneath their toppled thatched hut.

Disaster Management Secretary Aiyub Bhuiyan met Sunday with representatives from the United Nations and international aid groups to discuss the emergency response.

"The donors wanted to know about our plan and how they can come forward to stand by the victims," Bhuiyan told reporters. "We have briefed them about what we need immediately."

The government said it has allocated $5.2 million in emergency aid for rebuilding houses. Many foreign governments and international groups have pledged to help, including the United States, which offered $2.1 million, and the UN, which promised $7 million. The US also plans to ship 35 tons of nonfood items such as plastic sheeting and hygiene kits, said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

Additionally, the USS Essex and the USS Kearsarge are en route to Bangladesh to assist in operations there. An 18 person Department of Defense medical team that was in Bangladesh prior to the storm is there to help with current medical needs.

Other governments and organizations that pledged to help include the German government, which offered $731,000, the European Union with $2.2 million, and the British government with $5 million. France pledged $730,000 in aid, while the Philippines announced it would send a medical team.

The Rome-based World Food Program is rushing in food, and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society is sending thousands of workers to stricken areas.

Many survivors have returned to find their bamboo-and-straw huts flattened, their roofs missing, their crops ruined.

Government officials defended the relief efforts and expressed confidence that authorities are up to the task.

"We have enough food and water," said Shahidul Islam, the top official in Bagerhat, a battered district close to Barguna. "We are going to overcome the problem."

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