KOYRA, Bangladesh, June 1, 2009 (AFP) - Bangladesh said Monday it was struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims and would seek foreign aid to rebuild scores of damaged homes, roads and embankments.
The call for help came a week after Cyclone Aila battered southern Bangladesh and West Bengal in India, killing almost 300 people.
Bangladesh's food and disaster management minister Abdur Razzak told AFP that some half a million people were still stranded after the cyclone wiped out homes and destroyed more than 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of embankments.
A military and civilian relief operation began soon after the cyclone hit, but many of the low-lying remote areas north of the Bay of Bengal were without drinking water.
"We are struggling to ensure supply of drinking water to the worst affected areas," he said, adding lack of shelter was also a problem.
"We don't need any food or relief, but we are going to seek foreign aid to build embankments and cyclone shelters. We have to build the embankments immediately to protect people from salty water."
The worst-affected areas were experiencing daily flooding at high tide because the cyclone had washed away levees and embankments, he said.
This was contaminating drinking water with thousands of people suffering from diarrhoea and more than a million without adequate food, water and shelter, according to medical officials and charities.
On Sunday doctors and charities called the situation a "humanitarian crisis" and warned that diarrhoea was spreading at an "alarming rate."
In the worst affected districts of Koyra, Dakope, Satkhira and Khulna close to the Indian border, more than 11,500 people had been treated for diarrhoea, medical officials said.
"Lack of drinking water is the main problem. We have doctors and medicine but the diarrhoea situation has severely worsened and it's an acute crisis," regional medical chief Lutfur Rahman Khan told AFP.
On the Indian side of the border in West Bengal state, authorities were seeking more than 200 million dollars in aid from the central government to help rebuild damaged infrastructure.
The low-lying region frequently experiences tropical storms and cyclones during the monsoon season. In 2007, more than 3,500 people were killed, most of them in Bangladesh, when Cyclone Sidr lashed the same districts.