Relief workers and the Bangladesh army, air force and navy intensified efforts on Tuesday to reach millions of survivors of a cyclone that killed nearly 3,500 people along the Bay of Bengal.

A huge relief operation was under way with the aim of reaching almost all the affected areas.

Bangladesh army relief and rescue teams have reached 70 percent of the affected areas, said officers manning a military control room opened after Cyclone Sidr smashed into low-lying coastal areas on Thursday.

We have reinforced relief efforts by adding more helicopters and cargo planes to fly food, medicine, water and other essential goods to the survivors, said an army official.

Ten MI-17 helicopters and three planes are already in use and they will be joined shortly by two C-130 transport aircraft from the U.S. Marines, he said.

We will cover the rest of the ground in a day or two, a disaster management official said on Tuesday.

But food supplies were still woefully inadequate.

Hundreds of hands go up to grab just one food packet. This is a mad rush but a tragic reality on the entire coastline ravaged by the cyclone, said a relief operator in the Patuakhali district.

The Category Four cyclone struck late on Thursday with 250 kph (155 mph) winds that whipped up a five-meter (16-foot) tidal surge.

The disaster was the worst in the impoverished country of 140 million since 1991 when a cyclone and storm surge killed around 143,000 people.

The country's army-backed interim government said supplies will increase over the next weeks once $142 million in promised emergency relief from international donors and the King of Saudi Arabia starts rolling in.

The navy and coastguard had started to work on rebuilding homes, defense sources said, and troops were helping civil officials to remove uprooted trees blocking highways.

Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator Henrietta H. Fore, arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday to assess the damage and the need for assistance.

President (George W.) Bush has asked me to inform you that both civilian and military assistance would come in the next days for the cyclone victims in Bangladesh, she told reporters.

The two naval ships with greater capacity for evacuation, are expected to arrive in Bangladesh on November 23 and November 27, she said.

Washington has already pledged $2.1 million in emergency aid.


Officials in the affected areas -- mostly inhabited by fishermen but also some farmers -- said a shortage of drinking water and medicine had caused outbreaks of diarrhea in many places.

Reporters and cameramen traveling in the disaster areas were rebuffed by angry survivors.

There is no need to print our photograph in the papers or show us on television. Please give us food, water and shelter, said one woman at Mongla, a fishing district near the country's second sea port.

Survivors were still frantically searching for their loved ones, a Reuters reporter in Patharghata, another fishing hamlet, said.

A local official in Patuakhali said children had started coming back to class. But teachers held classes out in the open because thousands of school buildings had been destroyed.

(Additional reporting by Ruma Paul, Serajul Islam Quadir, Nizam Ahmed and Masud Karim Azad Majumder, editing by David Fogarty)

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