Azahar Ali huddled with his family, reading from the Koran, as the cyclone roared in. First the power went out, then screaming winds blew out the windows and ripped off the roof. Then the sea rushed in, washing him and his family away.
The 80-year-old awoke in a rice paddy to find his son, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren, and three other relatives dead, among the more than 3,100 people killed by Cyclone Sidr.
"I have lost everything," he said Monday while recounting the terror of the worst cyclone in more than a decade to hit this low-lying South Asian nation of 150 million people.
Details of the devastation and the stories of the survivors began to emerge as rescuers reached areas cut off four days earlier when the storm washed out roads and downed telephone lines.
At least 3,113 people were known dead and more than a thousand were missing, said Lt. Col. Main Ullah Chowdhury, a spokesperson for Bangladesh's army.
The Red Crescent Society, the Islamic cousin of the Red Cross, warned that the death toll could rise to 10,000 once rescuers reach outlying islands.
Mike Kiernan, spokesperson for the charity Save the Children, said the final toll could be between 5,000 and 10,000 deaths but added that "we won't know for certain for days or weeks."
He said hundreds of thousands of people managed to escape physical harm, but many lost their homes and crops.
"Just the fact that people were able to survive this does not mean they will survive the second wave of death that comes from catastrophes like this—from lack of clean water, food, basic medicines, and shelter," Kiernan said.
In the village of Parulkhel, residents and rescuers used bamboo poles to probe flooded fields, looking for submerged bodies.
When a woman's corpse was discovered, workers rushed in with sacks and a plastic sheet to lift the body out. Onlookers gathered, and one weeping man identified her as his mother.