PATHARGHATA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh sought more foreign aid Tuesday to help thousands of survivors of Cyclone Sidr after the storm mauled the country's coast and killed more than 3,100 people, according to an official tally that was expected to rise.
Food, fresh water and temporary shelter had still not reached many of the hungry and exhausted survivors.
"At this time we will welcome support from the international community," said a statement from Bangladesh Foreign Ministry. "We are doing as best as we can do ourselves," it said.
• Click here to view photos.
The government said international aid worth about $120 million has so far been promised. But relief items such as tents, rice and water have been slow to reach most survivors of the worst cyclone to hit Bangladesh in a decade.
The American Red Cross said it will provide $1.2 million to help get clean water to the survivors and build emergency shelters.
"The problem is that aid workers need hours to reach these remote areas. Poor communications are also hampering our work," said Anwarul Huq, a spokesman for the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee or BRAC.
The BRAC is Bangladesh's largest nonprofit development organization.
In many places, aid workers had to clear fallen trees and debris to get to survivors, said Huq, adding that rescuers also were facing a shortage of boats.
Nearly 3,000 BRAC volunteers have been distributing rice, lentils, salt, biscuits and candles to the survivors, he said.
At Patharghata, a hard-hit trading town along the Bay of Bengal, more than 100 women — many of them clad in veils — gathered Tuesday hoping to get aid.
"I've been waiting here for several hours hoping to get some food and drinking water," said Safura Begum, who has three children. "But I'm not sure it will come."
"Some biscuits and a few bottles of water are what I've gotten in the past three days," the 45-year-old said.
The government is using helicopters to get aid to the survivors — many of whom are still living out in the open. Some relief agencies are also using boats to ferry relief aid to remote pockets.
Catholic Relief Services are using ferries and traditional fishing boats to send food and emergency relief material to nearly 1,000 families in Barisal district, one of the hardest hit by the cyclone.
The cyclone that tore across the Bangladesh coast last Thursday has left tens of thousands of people homeless and desperate for help.
On Thursday night, Nasima Begum, 30, woke up to howling winds and high waves rolling from the sea into her thatched hut near Patharghata. Before her house collapsed she managed to gather her children and fight her way through the water to a nearby tree. She held on to the tree and asked the children to cling to her body.
"We were there for almost an hour before the storm subsided and the water began to recede. I don't know how I survived. But Allah has helped us," she said.
Five days after the cyclone — the deadliest in a decade — rescuers recovered human bodies and carcasses of animals from the debris and from pools of stagnant water.
On Tuesday, a small group of grieving relatives waited at Padma village near Pathargata to bury the decomposing body of a 7-year-old girl they found lying in a muddy rice paddy. The body was wrapped in paper for lack of a proper funeral shroud.
In Padma, a coastal village of about 3,000 people, almost every family has lost someone to the cyclone.
By Monday the official death toll stood at 3,113 after reports reached Dhaka from storm-ravaged areas that had earlier been largely cut off because of washed-out roads and disrupted phone services, said Lt. Col. Main Ullah Chowdhury, a spokesman for the army that is coordinating the relief and rescue work.
Local media reports say more than 4,000 people may have been killed. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, has suggested the final figure could be around 10,000.
Every year, storms batter Bangladesh, a delta nation of 150 million people, often killing a large number of people.
A similar cyclone in 1991 killed 139,000 people along the coast. The most recent deadly storm was a tornado that leveled 80 villages in northern Bangladesh in 1996, killing 621 people.