A section of a bridge collapsed Saturday as thousands of hungry cyclone victims stampeded toward aid workers delivering rice in southwestern Bangladesh, officials said. Dozens were injured and at least one person died.
Villagers have become desperate for food and other aid, relief workers said as they struggle to bring in adequate supplies.
Ashraful Zaman, an official at the local Disaster Management Control Room, said the stampede across the 500-foot bridge in the Patuakhali district, one of the areas hit hardest by Tropical Cyclone Sidr this month, was triggered by an offer of rice by a private group that had not alerted local officials of its plans.
Rescuers used cranes to remove concrete slabs from the collapsed 30-foot section to search for people feared crushed underneath, while frantic villagers gathered by the river to search for loved ones.
The U.S. Navy was planning to begin distribution as early as Sunday of food, medicine and water to cyclone survivors in remote villages cut off by the storm. The storm left many roads blocked by fallen trees and other debris.
The U.S. Navy delivered 3,000 gallons of drinking water to hard-hit Barisal district on Friday, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Amy Vrampas said.
“We’ve been told that water was the most crucial,” she said.
With many wells destroyed by the cyclone, there is a critical need for clean water supplies to prevent the spread of cholera and severe diarrhea.
At least 3,199 people were killed by the Nov. 15 cyclone, according to the Bangladeshi army, and the country’s Disaster Management Ministry says 1,724 people remain missing.