Grieving relatives and rescuers picked through the rubble left in the wake of a super cyclone that battered Bangladesh as the death toll neared 1 9008on Sunday.
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.
Officials expected the death toll to rise further as the search for hundreds of people missing after Thursday night’s storm intensified.
"It will take several days to complete the search and know the actual casualty figure and extent of damage to property," said food and disaster ministry official Ayub Miah.
A huge effort was under way 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.
Cyclone Sidr smashed into the country’s southern coastline late on Thursday night with 250km/h winds that whipped up a 5m tidal surge.
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 disaster ministry in Dhaka had recorded 1 861 deaths by Sunday at noon, but local media put the figure at more than 3 000. A much improved disaster preparedness plan has been credited with saving scores of lives.
In Barisal, one of the worst hit districts, authorities used elephants to clear uprooted trees blocking highways.
Helicopters flew sorties to devastated areas, dropping food, drinking water and medicine for the survivors.
"There are not many places where we can land," said one pilot, as large areas were still under water.
Several fishermen picked by a trawler from sea said they saw dozens of bodies floating in the waters near the Sundarban mangrove forest, a world heritage site and home to the endangered Royal Bengal tiger.
They also saw scores of dead deer and other wildlife floating in the Pashur river, near the forest.
Navy ships scoured coastal areas and sought to clear river channels clogged with sunken vessels. Red Crescent officials said about 1 000 fishermen and about 150 boats were still unaccounted for in the Bay of Bengal.
Aid officials said damage from the storm was very severe.
"Our relief teams have started emergency distribution, with an initial coverage of 100 000 people," Vince Edwards, national director of World Vision Bangladesh.
In many areas, 95% of rice crops due to be harvested in a few weeks have been badly damaged, officials said. Hundreds of shrimp farms have also been washed away.