Bangladesh storm toll rises to 26, scores missing

DHAKA - Tropical storms that battered southern Bangladesh are now known to have killed at least 26 people while some 60 fishermen are still missing, police and officials said on Friday.

The government's Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) said at least 30,000 mud, tin and straw-built houses were damaged in the storms that wreaked havoc in around half a dozen coastal towns and the islands of Hatiya, Bhola and Sandwip early Thurday.

Dalil Uddin, a senior DMB controller, said rescuers had found seven more bodies on Friday, raising the overall death toll to 26.

Most of the bodies were recovered buried under the rubble of collapsed homes or from under fallen trees.

"We are expecting the death toll might still rise, as rescue efforts are still on," Uddin told AFP.

Uddin said the government has started to distribute emergency relief food among more than 100,000 affected people.

There had been fears for up to 1,500 fishermen who were unaccounted for on Thursday but police have revised that figure down to around 60.

Moktar Hossain, police chief on the worst-hit island of Hatiya, said coastguards were trying to find 20 fishermen. Up to 40 are also still unaccounted for on Bhola island.

The storm caught the fishermen and coastal people by surprise. Forecasters had predicted heavy rain but there was no major storm warning.

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