The NewsFuror

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Police top Billboard tour awards

The Police
The Police's reunion tour is first for over 20 years
The Police's reunion concerts have won two awards at the Billboard Touring Awards in the US.

The rock group's first outing in more than 20 years was named the top grossing and top selling tour of 2007.

According to Billboard figures, The Police have so far grossed more than $171m (£83.8m) from 53 shows seen by more than 1.5 million people.

The tour will end early next year after travelling through Japan, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

"Clearly there was pent-up demand from 20 plus years of them not touring and the fact that they were, when they split up in the mid-80s, at their peak," Arthur Fogel, head of tour producers Live Nation, said.

Singer and bass player Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers began the tour in May.

Justin Timberlake took Billboard's breakthrough award for his Futuresex/Loveshow tour, which grossed more than $115.8m (£56.7m) from 100 shows seen by more than 1.5 million people.

Donnington Park's Download Festival was named top festival, and Madison Square Garden in New York was rewarded with the title of top arena.

Woman fined for kissing painting

Rindy Sam
Rindy Sam said her kiss was an act of devotion
A woman who kissed a £1.37m painting, leaving a lipstick stain, has been ordered to pay 1,500 euros (£1,074) in damages to its owner by a French judge.

Cambodian-born Rindy Sam told the court in the southern French city of Avignon that she was "overcome with passion" when she saw the painting in July.

The plain white canvas, part of triptych by artist Cy Twombly, was on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

She must also pay a symbolic one euro (71p) to the US artist.

The gallery owner will also receive 500 euros (£357).

Restorers have been unable to remove the lipstick and have unsuccessfully used 30 products to get rid of the stain.

At her trial in October, Ms Sam said the kiss was an act of devotion to the work of art.

"I just gave it a kiss. It was an act of love, when I kissed it, I wasn't thinking. I thought the artist would understand," she said.

Cy Twombly art exhibition
The plain canvas (right) was kissed by Ms Sam

But Agnes Tricoire, lawyer for the picture's owner, said the kiss was "as aggressive as a punch," causing damage that was just as hard to restore.

"I do not share the same vision of love. For me love requires the consent of both sides," she said.

Twombly, who was born in 1928, is known for his abstract paintings combining painting and drawing techniques, repetitive lines and the use of graffiti, letters and words.

He won the Venice Golden Lion award for his work in 2001.

Lohan spends 84 minutes in jail

Lindsay Lohan
After her sentencing Ms Lohan admitted she had a drink problem
Actress Lindsay Lohan has spent 84 minutes in jail after admitting to drunken driving and cocaine possession.

The 21-year-old, who was sentenced in August to one day in jail, was searched before being put in a holding cell at the Los Angeles County jail.

The charges stemmed from arrests following an alleged car chase in July, and a crash in Beverley Hills in May.

The Sheriff's spokesman said Ms Lohan was "cooperative". Jail sentences are often shortened due to overcrowding.


When asked if she had been given special treatment because she is a celebrity, spokesman Steve Whitmore said: "Absolutely not. This is what we do for mostly everybody in this position.

"In fact, 30 to 50 women are granted early releases from the facility every day," he said.

The actress has just finished a second stint in a rehabilitation centre in Utah, after admitting she had a drink and drugs problem in August.

"It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs," the star said in a statement at the time.

Nicole Richie
Nicole Richie completed her 82 minute jail sentence in August

During her arrests in May and July, Ms Lohan was found in possession of small amounts of cocaine.

She reached a plea deal on the drunken driving and cocaine charges in August.

Ms Lohan was sentenced to four days in jail, but the judge gave her credit for 24 hours already served, and she elected to complete community service instead of 48 hours in jail.

The judge ordered her to complete 10 days of community service, spend three years on probation and 18 months on an alcohol-education program.

Ms Lohan spent two minutes longer in jail than fellow celebrity Nicole Richie did in August for a similar offence.

Ms Richie's co-star on TV's The Simple Life Paris Hilton served 23 days at the same jail earlier this year.

It was after she was found guilty of driving on a suspended licence while on probation for an alcohol-related reckless-driving case.

Hollywood writers to resume talks

Scottish-born singer-songwriter KT Tunstall sings for striking Hollywood writers
Scottish singer KT Tunstall this week showed her support for writers
Hollywood screenwriters, who have been on strike for nearly two weeks, say they will re-open negotiations with their studios on 26 November.

They will be the first contract talks since the writers went on strike on 5 November, demanding a bigger share of profits from DVD and internet sales.

The strike has crippled US TV, forcing talk shows to be suspended and threatening favourite primetime series.

Writers said they would stay on the picket line until a deal was reached.

But one, Sean Jablonski, who pens the cosmetic surgery series Nip/Tuck, was glad to hear that negotiations were back on.

"That's fabulous, that's great. You can't get a deal until two sides sit down and talk about it," he told the Associated Press.

Shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost and Grey's Anatomy are reported to be on the verge of shutting down production, with no lines for their actors to learn.

The rapid impact of the strike highlights the pivotal role played by writers, not only in writing original stories, but on the set, says the BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles.

Many shows operate on a tight schedule. Once it has been interrupted, a production can be affected for months.

But the employers, represented by The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, have made it known, through newspaper ads, that they believe writers are already paid well enough for their work.

Dollars no good for the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is visited by millions of tourists every year
Foreign tourists to many of India's most famous landmarks will no longer be able to pay the entrance fee in dollars, the government says.

The ruling is aimed at safeguarding tourism revenues following the recent falls in the dollar.

Until now, foreign tourists to sites such at the Taj Mahal have had the option of paying in dollars or rupees.

The ruling will affect nearly 120 sites of interest run by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Of these, at least 27 are World Heritage sites, including the Taj Mahal.

'International practices'

The ruling is due to be implemented next week. Entrance fees to the sites in question will be either 250 rupees ($6.35) or 100 rupees ($2.54).

"These rates have been fixed in line with international practices, and in order to take care of the fluctuation in the dollar rates," a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism told the BBC.

Officials say the ministry wanted to act fast so that the revenues are not hit.

Indians only pay 20 or 10 rupees to enter ASI sites, a difference often questioned by foreign tourists.

But officials say there is nothing wrong with this because most Indians earn far less than the foreign visitors.

"The uniform rate applied by most foreign countries are often too high for most Indians anyway," the tourism ministry official told the BBC .

However, the Indian government has also decided that nationals from the regional South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation will not have to pay the higher rate.

Nor will people holding a government-issued People of Indian Origin (PIO) card.

India earned more than $6.5bn in foreign exchange from more than four million foreign tourists to the country last year.

Northern Rock's chief steps down

Northern Rock boss Adam Applegarth
Adam Applegarth has been heavily criticised for the bank's problems
The chief executive of troubled British bank Northern Rock, Adam Applegarth, has resigned, the lender has said.

The bank's shares collapsed after it was forced to seek emergency funding from the Bank of England in September.

Concerned customers rushed to withdraw their money, and the bank has since been seeking bidders to rescue it.

Two suitors, Virgin Group and investment firm Olivant Advisers, confirmed they had made proposals to rescue the bank by a Friday deadline.

US private equity firms JC Flowers and Cerberus are among other firms expected to come forward with offers for the beleaguered Newcastle-based bank, which is responsible for about one-in-five mortgages in the UK.

Northern Rock also said that David Baker, Keith Currie and Andy Kuipers were standing down as board directors but would stay with the firm.

At the same time, four non-executive directors, Sir Derek Wanless, Nichola Pease, Adam Fenwick and Rosemary Radcliffe, were stepping down immediately, it added.

Vincent Cable, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, told BBC News 24 that emergency funding from the government had gone into the bank equivalent to twice the amount of the annual primary school budget.

"It really is a scandal", he said.

Banking run

Northern Rock has been in trouble since getting caught up in the global credit crunch over the summer, which left it unable to borrow money from other banks to fund its business model.

The problem facing Northern Rock was that three-quarters of its funding came from wholesale money markets, and when the global credit crunch took hold, its main source of financing dried up.

BBC business editor Robert Peston
If I were a Northern Rock shareholder I would be alarmed

Simply put, banks were so worried about the problems in the global debt market that they stopped lending to each other, making it almost impossible for Northern Rock to keep operating.

As a result, the lender turned to the Bank of England for emergency funding, prompting the run and its current set of problems.

"The new chairman, Bryan Sanderson, is stamping his authority on the board and I think that the message is that the status quo is no longer an option," said John McFall, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.

Press reports earlier this week claimed that the British taxpayer could still be underwriting up to £6bn worth of loans to the bank until 2010 through emergency funding provided by the Bank of England.

Critics have slated Mr Applegarth for failing to protect the bank from volatility in the global financial markets and for using a business model that took on too much risk.

Northern Rock said that Mr Applegarth will step down from his post once he has helped the lender complete the second phase of its strategic review, which is scheduled for completion no later than the end of January 2008.

"Adam's participation in the next phase of the strategic review is important, not least due to his extensive knowledge of the business and his ability to lead the process during this difficult period," said bank chairman Mr Sanderson.

Future plans

Analysts said that there are a number of options for the bank going forward, ranging from an outright buy-out to a breaking up of the bank's assets.

A consortium led by Richard Branson's Virgin Group on Friday submitted a formal proposal to rescue Northern Rock.

Olivant, a team led by veteran troubleshooter and former Abbey National boss Luqman Arnold, said it had made a detailed proposal to stabilise the bank as a viable business and restore its finances.

"The key to repayment of the Bank of England facility is to stabilise Northern Rock and restore confidence in the bank and its brand," Mr Arnold said.

JC Flowers, meanwhile, has put together a high-profile management team to make their case for taking over the bank stronger, while rival private equity firm Cerberus has also been rumoured to have been scouring Northern Rock's books.

But because any future owner will have to pay back about £24bn of Bank of England loans, analysts said that bids are likely to be low.

Gap acts over Indian child labour

Gap customer with bag
Gap says it must do more to eradicate child labour
Retailer Gap has pledged to "do more" to eradicate child labour after it emerged one of its Indian suppliers had been employing children as young as 10.

The US firm will donate $200,000 to improve factory conditions in India as well as tighten up its own procedures.

Gap withdrew an order from sale after it was sub-contracted to a firm which used children to embroider the product.

The children involved will be paid until they reach working age, Gap insisted, and then offered jobs.

'Unauthorized facility'

The allegations that child labour was being used to produce a girl's smock blouse in a Delhi sweatshop were first reported by The Observer newspaper.

It revealed that some children were working up to 16 hours a day on items carrying Gap labels and barcodes.

An internal Gap investigation confirmed the work had been sub-contracted, without the firm's knowledge or agreement, to an "unauthorized facility".

We are incredibly proud of the real progress we have made over the past decade to improve working conditions in factories that make our products
Marka Hansen, Gap

Gap has now suspended half its orders from its original contractor and put the firm on "probation" for the next six months.

It said it had acted "decisively" once the situation had come to light.

"We are incredibly proud of the real progress we have made over the past decade to improve working conditions in factories that make our products," Marka Hansen, president of the firm's North American division.

"That makes this recent news all the more disappointing."


According to the International Herald Tribune, the 14 children police removed from the Delhi workshop under investigation are now being cared for at a local children's home.

Gap said it thoroughly audited factories which make its clothing and in 2006 had revoked the licences of 23 factories which failed to comply with its standards.

But charities said Gap had a responsibility to monitor its entire supply chain to ensure proper working practices were being upheld.

The International Labour Organisation's most recent research suggested there are more than 215 million child workers around the world, more than half of these in Asia.

Credit losses 'may reach $400bn'

A glut of unsold homes is depressing US house prices
Mr Hatzius warned of a "substantial recession" risk
Financial companies' losses due to the US sub-prime crisis could be as much as $400bn (£190bn), US investment bank Goldman Sachs has said.

The estimate by Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius is higher than that of the Federal Reserve but in line with some recent independent forecasts.

Mr Hatzius predicts leveraged investors may have to reduce their lending by $2 trillion as a result.

"The macroeconomic consequences could be quite dramatic," Mr Hatzius said.

He said the development could lead to a "substantial recession" if it happened over a year, or to a prolonged period of weak economic growth if it occurred over up to four years.

'Wrong analogy'

The associated downward pressure on lending raises the risk of significant weakness in economic activity
Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs
The economist's calculations are based on the estimate of investors cutting lending by $10 for every $1 in losses and on the assumption the investors would see half of the potential losses of $400bn.

"The likely mortgage credit losses pose a significantly bigger macroeconomic risk than generally recognised," he said.

"While the uncertainty is large, the associated downward pressure on lending raises the risk of significant weakness in economic activity."

Mr Hatzius said the analogy that a $400bn loss "is just an equivalent to one bad day in the stock market" is wrong as most equities are held by the type of investors who "do not adjust their portfolios in response to a capital loss".

Compensation for the risk

Meanwhile, for the first time in several years the bond's yield - considered to be a measure of the company's default risk - for the largest financial institutions exceeded the yield of the average company's bond.

Usually, the higher the risk, the higher the yield would be, as the bond's issuer has to offer investors a certain compensation for the risk.

It means that now banks, insurance companies and brokerages must pay more for borrowings in the corporate bond market than the average company.

Oil prices rebound as Opec meets

Oil drums
Oil reached a record high of $98.62 a barrel earlier this month
Oil prices rose back above $95 a barrel on Friday on expectations that an Opec summit would not debate raising output.

The jump came after a day of losses caused by a surprise build in US crude stocks and forecast of lower demand.

US light, sweet crude gained $1.67 to $95.10 a barrel. London Brent crude was up $1.39 cents at $91.62 a barrel.

The Opec members' leaders are holding a summit in Riyadh this weekend, but the group argues that current supplies of oil are adequate.

Opec said on Thursday that oil demand in the last quarter of 2007 would rise by 1.97%, less than predicted in October.

On Friday, Venezuela's oil minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters there was no need to raise output levels at the group's policy meeting in December.

"No, there is enough oil in the market," he said in the Saudi capital.

Reports that Opec ministers were planning to release a statement rejecting US requests to increase production also pushed up prices, analysts said.

Opec blunder

The summit was marked by the accidental airing of a closed Opec session, which provided a surprise glimpse into a sensitive debate over the weakening US dollar.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister warned that even talking publicly about the currency's decline could further hurt its value.

While Iran attempted to convince other member countries to express concern over dollar depreciation in the meeting's final declaration.

Oil is priced in dollars on the world market, and its depreciation has concerned oil producers because it has contributed to rising crude prices and has eroded the value of their dollar reserves.

A record high of $98.62 a barrel - unadjusted for inflation - was reached earlier this month on the back of a weak dollar, geopolitical tensions and concerns about tight supplies.

Austria 0-1 England

England striker Michael Owen goes off with a thigh strain in the win over Austria
Owen endured more injury woes in the win over Austria
Michael Owen will miss England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia on Wednesday after suffering an injury in the friendly win in Austria.

The Newcastle striker went off with a thigh strain in the first half of the 1-0 victory and may be out for a month.

"It's a massive blow," said England manager Steve McClaren.

England will need to beat Croatia or get a draw if results on Saturday between Israel and Russia or Croatia's tie in Macedonia go their way.

If Russia draw in Israel then England will need to beat Croatia but a loss for Russia would see England needing a point on Wednesday at Wembley.

A loss for Croatia would see England needing to beat them by two goals or more to book a place in next summer's finals.

McClaren is already without forward Wayne Rooney with an ankle injury and Owen's absence will leave him short of options up front.

"It was a strange one, it was Michael's standing foot," said McClaren. "He's pulled his thigh and unfortunately he's out."

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch scored the winner in the victory over Austria and would be the most likely to lead the attack.

Jermain Defoe could come into the reckoning or McClaren may opt to play five in midfield with either Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in a more advanced role.

"I do believe we do need to win against Croatia but we go into that game without two centre-halves and two strikers we would pick," added McClaren.

The problems at centre-back see John Terry out with a knee injury while Rio Ferdinand is suspended.

"It's disappointing but I believe and hope that Wednesday will be important.

"I believe there's enough in that dressing room and the squad has enough spirit that we will do it."

But McClaren was buoyed by the performance of Sol Campbell and Joleon Lescott in central defence in Austria as well as the display of Micah Richards when he moved into the middle from right-back.

"In the first half, we got quite a lot out of it," said McClaren. "It was good but we could have scored more.

"The second half disappointed me in some ways. I expected us to go on the attack and get more goals but we were disappointing in the second half.

"But there were plusses. Scott (Carson) kept a clean sheet, Joleon and Sol were formidable and Frank, on his return to the team, was man of the match and rightly so."

Experts warn of 'abrupt' warming

Drought-hit river bed (Getty Images)
The IPCC says more heatwaves are very likely in the future
A UN panel has agreed a landmark report declaring that climate change is "unequivocal" and may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

After arduous talks in Valencia, Spain, scientists agreed a document they hope will shape debate on the next phase of the fight against climate change.

Among their conclusions are that carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster than they were a decade ago.

The text will be officially launched by UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Saturday.

Delegates to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarised thousands of pages of scientific analysis, bringing together elements of the three reports already released this year, on the science of climate change, impacts and adaptation, and options for mitigating the problem.

"This is the strongest report yet by the IPCC - but says that there is still time to act," Bill Hare, an Australian climate scientist and one of the authors, told Reuters.

Among the report's top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

The synthesis summary finalised late on Friday strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

"Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.

Other potential impacts highlighted in the text include:

  • between 75m and 250m people projected to have scarcer fresh water supplies than at present
  • yields from rain-fed agriculture could be halved
  • food security likely to be further compromised in Africa
  • widespread impacts on coral reefs

Writing in the International Herald Tribune ahead of the report's release, Ban Ki-moon said the world may be nearing a tipping-point on climate change.

"We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy.

"Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."

Local witnesses

His comments were endorsed by environmental groups on the fringes of the IPCC gathering.

Probable temperature rise between 1.8C and 4C
Possible temperature rise between 1.1C and 6.4C
Sea level most likely to rise by 28-43cm
Arctic summer sea ice disappears in second half of century
Increase in heatwaves very likely
Increase in tropical storm intensity likely

"Climate change is here, it's impacting our lives and our economies, and we need to do something about it," commented Hans Verolme, director of the climate change programme with the environmental group WWF.

"After this report, there are no politicians left who can argue they don't know what climate change is or they don't know what to do about it."

At a news conference, the WWF presented testimonies from "climate change witnesses" in various parts of the world.

Speaking by video link, Australian scientists and fishermen spoke of the changes they were seeing on the Great Barrier Reef.

And Olav Mathis Eira, a Sami reindeer herder from Norway, said that his communities are seeing weather patterns unprecedented in their oral history.

"Winter is one-and-a-half months later than it used to be," he said. "We observed birds and insects that do not have a name in Sami."

The IPCC findings will feed into the next round of negotiations on the UN climate convention and Kyoto Protocol, which open in Bali on 3 December.

Musharraf defends emergency rule

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf swears in Mohammadmian Soomro as caretaker prime minister
President Musharraf has appointed Mohammadmian Soomro as PM
The Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, says his country is safe as long as the military stays in charge.

Gen Musharraf told the BBC that if the elections were held under disturbed conditions, Pakistan's nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

A senior US envoy, John Negroponte, has met Gen Musharraf in Pakistan to discuss the deepening political crisis.

Diplomats said he had delivered a very strong message calling for an end to the state of emergency.

Mr Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, was also expected to try to revive a deal between opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and Gen Musharraf.

He arrived in Pakistan on Friday and spoke on the telephone to Ms Bhutto, telling her "moderate forces" should work together to get Pakistan back to democracy.

He is expected to call for the release of thousands of lawyers and political prisoners and an end of emergency rule as a pre-requisite for a fair election.

Mr Negroponte also met General Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan's deputy army chief of staff and Gen Musharraf's chosen successor if he resigns as head of the army as promised.

A military official told AFP news agency they had "discussed matters of mutual interest and security".

Election chaos

But Gen Musharraf has defended his decision to impose emergency rule on Pakistan.

Anti-US protesters in Lahore
Some opposition supporters did not welcome Mr Negroponte's visit

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said that if elections were held in the wrong environment, the results could lead to chaos.

And if that happened, he argued, Pakistan's nuclear weapons could become vulnerable.

"They cannot fall into the wrong hands, if we manage ourselves politically. The military is there - as long as the military is there, nothing happens to the strategic assets, we are in charge and nobody does anything with them," he said.

Gen Musharraf told the BBC it was judges and opposition politicians - not himself - who were trying to derail the political and democratic process in Pakistan.

He demanded an explanation for his portrayal in the Western media in recent months.

"Did I go mad? Or suddenly, my personality changed? Am I Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?" he asked.

"Have I done anything constitutionally illegal? Yes, I did it on 3 November," he said, referring to his imposition of emergency rule. "But did I do it before? Not once."

"Who is trying to derail the political and democratic process? Am I? Or is it some elements in the Supreme Court - the chief justice and his coterie... and now some elements in the political field?"

Meanwhile two leading independent television channels in Pakistan have been forced to shut down completely.

Cable broadcasts of the stations, Geo and ARY, were stopped when Gen Musharraf imposed emergency rule two weeks ago. But the two channels had been able to broadcast on satellite out of Dubai.

Now the authorities in Dubai have ordered them to stop satellite transmissions.

Angry journalists held a march through the Pakistani city of Karachi, to protest at what they say was direct pressure from Gen Musharraf to shut down the two channels.

Benazir Bhutto in Lahore
Benazir Bhutto was placed under house arrest on Tuesday

'Corrupt and unpopular'

Gen Musharraf has criticised former Prime Minister Bhutto, despite recent efforts by the two to form an alliance.

He said Ms Bhutto feared the polls, set for January, because she was corrupt and unpopular.

Gen Musharraf said she was "the darling of the West" but that "she would not like to go into an election because her party is not in a state to win at all".

"Therefore, I will certainly go for the election, in spite of any agitation by her. We will not allow her that," he said.

Ms Bhutto, who was released from house arrest on Friday, has said that she will meet other opposition leaders to discuss a boycott of January's assembly elections.

The opposition says polls under emergency rule would lack credibility.

Washington had been hoping for Ms Bhutto and Gen Musharraf to work together to give his government more support in its fight against pro-Taleban extremists.

But Ms Bhutto again appeared to rule this out.

"I can't see how I can team up with somebody who raises hopes and dashes them... He talked to me about a roadmap to democracy and imposed martial law," she said.

The US administration has made repeated calls for the emergency to be lifted and for Gen Musharraf to return the country to civilian rule.

Gen Musharraf says he will resign as head of the army once the Supreme Court has ratified his next term as president.

Cyclone rescue effort under way

Villagers cross a collapsed bridge in Bashbariya in southern Bangladesh 17 November 2007

Aid workers are struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of survivors from a powerful cyclone that ripped through southern and central Bangladesh.

At least 667 people are reported to have died during the storm, a toll that is expected to rise.

The cyclone has destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes.

But access to some of the worst affected areas is difficult with roads blocked by debris and power and phone lines cut.

With a huge relief operation now under way, the true extent of the destruction is expected to become clearer on Saturday, the BBC's Mark Dummett in Dhaka reports.

Military helicopters and ships joined the rescue efforts on Saturday, helping deliver supplies and medical assistance to some of the most remote areas.

It was like doomsday, the most frightening five hours of my life
Mollik Tariqur Rahman

The ships were also at work clearing channels blocked with sunken vessels.

On land, elephants were employed to clear some of the heavier debris from roads.

The storm hit Bangladesh late on Thursday, with winds rising to 240km/h (150mph).

It passed through the capital Dhaka hours later, before dying down in the north-east of the country.

'Trail of destruction'

Many villages have been levelled and the recent crop harvest has also probably been destroyed, correspondents say.

The biggest challenge for southern Bangladesh will now be reconstruction, the BBC's Mark Dummett says.

One witness in the south-western Bagerhat district told the news agency AFP that the storm had destroyed 80% of the homes in his village.

An elephant pushes a stranded bus in Barisal, 16 November 2007
Elephants have been used to help clear roads

"I cannot describe how devastating it was. It was like doomsday, the most frightening five hours of my life. I thought I would never see my family again," said local businessman Mollik Tariqur Rahman.

"There is a trail of destruction everywhere. We can't even detect exactly where our houses were built - only a few are left and they do not have roofs," he said.

Many people are thought to have been killed as falling trees levelled fragile houses made of thatch, wood and tin.

The storm triggered 5m (16ft) tidal surges in many of the affected districts. Rivers flowing into the Bay of Bengal were said to be swollen and rising.

Death toll rising

At least 150 fishing boats in the Bay of Bengal have failed to return to shore.

Hundreds of fishermen are feared missing.

The United News of Bangladesh news agency said its tally, reached by adding up figures from its reporters across the country, came to at least 1,100, but this could not be verified.

Amid a virtual national blackout, the authorities have been struggling to get food, medicine, tents and blankets to the affected areas.

An official from the UN World Food Programme said the most urgent needs were food, water purification tablets, and medicines.

The WFP is sending energy biscuits for 400,000 people. The government, the Red Crescent and other NGOs are also sending teams.

Path of Cyclone Sidr across Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh

Bangladesh developed a network of cyclone shelters and a storm early-warning system, after a cyclone killed more than 500,000 people in 1970.

Casualties from cyclones have been significantly reduced as a result, officials say.

Southern Bangladesh is hit every year by cyclones and floods, but Cyclone Sidr is the most destructive storm to hit the country in more than a decade.

Another storm in 1991 left some 143,000 dead.