US sends help to Bangladesh cyclone victims

The White House offered condolences today to victims of the deadly cyclone in Bangladesh and said the government had provided an initial $2.1m (€1.4m) in emergency aid.

The White House offered condolences today to victims of the deadly cyclone in Bangladesh and said the government had provided an initial $2.1m (€1.4m) in emergency aid.

A statement from press secretary Dana Perino said the USS Essex and the USS Kearsage were on their way to Bangladesh to help and that the US would airlift 35 tons of non-food items such as plastic sheeting, jerrycans, hygiene kits and other supplies.

She said an 18-strong US Defence Department medical team that was in the country before the storm would help with current medical needs.

“President and Mrs Bush offer condolences to the victims of Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, especially those who have lost loved ones, homes, and livelihoods in this tragedy,” the statement said.

“The US is committed to helping the people of Bangladesh and their government as they face the many challenges of rebuilding and recovering.

Tropical Cyclone Sidr, the deadliest storm to hit the country in a decade, destroyed tens of thousands of homes in south-west Bangladesh on Thursday and killed around 1,800 people. More than a million coastal villagers were forced to evacuate to government shelters.

Meanwhile thousands of survivors waited for relief aid today amid their wrecked homes and flooded fields.

The government scrambled to join international agencies and local officials in the rescue mission, deploying military helicopters, thousands of troops and naval ships.

Rescuers struggled to clear roads and get their vehicles through, but many found the blockages impassable.

At least 1.5 million coastal villagers had fled to shelters where they were given emergency rations.

The worst-hit area was Bagerhat district, where 610 people died, said Ashraful Zaman, an official at a cyclone monitoring centre in Dhaka.

Sidr’s 150 mph winds smashed tens of thousands of homes in south-western Bangladesh and ruined much-needed crops just before the harvest season. Ferries were flung ashore like toy boats.

Aid organisations said they feared food shortages and contaminated water could lead to widespread problems if people remain stranded.

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