University of Utah students from Bangladesh began raising money Friday to send to their cyclone-devastated homeland.

"We need any help we can get," said Sharif Ahmed, a graduate student of molecular biology.Ahmed, whose hometown is the central Bangladesh city of Dhaka, has more than a dozen relatives in Chittagong, the country's largest port, which has been hard hit by this week's high winds and tidal waves that have claimed at least 100,000 lives.

He also has uncles and aunts in the district of Feni, another area hit by the cyclone.

So far, Ahmed and his fellow Bangladeshi students have been unable to telephone their relatives."I haven't even contacted my parents," Ahmed said. "The lines are all down."

A country whose history is riddled with natural disasters, Bangladesh is simply unable to help itself in what's being called the second-worst cyclone of the century, said Ahmed.

The timing and location of this week's cyclone was particularly painful for the country, which struggles from year to year with hunger.

"This is the peak time for the rice crops," Ahmed said. "They were ready to be harvested. But I've heard about 3,000 to 4,000 tons was destroyed.

The areas hardest hit by the cyclone are the most fertile in the country, he said.

"The food shortage is going to be severe in the near future."

Ahmed said massive shrimp cultivation operations have also been destroyed. That plus the destruction of bridges and numerous cargo vessels are expected to cripple Bangladesh's economy.

The country's immediate needs are water purification tablets, tents, medicine, clothing, cooking utensils and food.

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(Additional information)

Contributions

Anyone wishing to contribute money to aid Bangladesh can send a check to the Bangladesh Club, c/o Bennion Center, Room 100, Olpin Union Bldg., University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

Or people can contact Rick Vandegraaff, a student adviser, 581-4811.

Sharif Ahmed said the funds will be passed along to the Bangladesh President's Relief Fund in Washington, D.C.