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Aid sent to cyclone-devastated Bangladesh

Bangladeshi villagers unload a helicopter with relief goods

(Keystone)

The Swiss government and charities say they are sending immediate aid to the survivors of the cyclone in Bangladesh, which has killed at least 2,300 people.

The aid, valued at just over SFR1 million ($890,000), will go in part to support efforts by the local Red Crescent Society to provide those in need with food packets, drinking water and medicine.

The Swiss offer comes in response to an appeal by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society for $6 million for relief and reconstruction efforts in the cyclone-affected districts.

The Bangladeshi government has declared the disaster "a national calamity". The Red Crescent said the overall death toll from the cyclone could reach 10,000 as more bodies from Thursday's storm are found.

Military ships and helicopters were trying to reach thousands of people believed stranded on islands in the Bay of Bengal and in coastal areas still cut off by the devastating storm.

It was part of a huge effort to get food, drinking water and shelter to tens of thousands affected by the storm, the worst to hit disaster-prone Bangladesh since 1991 when nearly 143,000 people died.

But pilots said they could not find many places to land as large areas are still under water.

Cyclone Sidr smashed into the country's southern coastline with 250 kph winds that whipped up a five metre tidal surge.

Lost at sea

Most of the deaths came from the surge washing away homes and strong winds blowing down dwellings. Many others drowned or were lost at sea.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said a logistics specialist had arrived in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, to analyse the situation.

The charity, Caritas, which has contributed SFr300,000, said it was working closely with the local branch of the non-governmental organisation.

It said thanks to an early warning system and success of a disaster preparedness plan, the authorities were able to evacuate one million people before the storm hit, avoiding a disaster on the scale of the one in 1991.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Surface area: 148'000km2
Population: 144 million
Annual population growth rate (since 1990): 2.1
Life expectancy at birth women/men: 65/63 years
Gross Domestic Product GDP per capita: $420
Percentage of population with less than $2 per day: 84%

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