The health minister of flood-stricken Bangladesh said disease levels had been kept to "manageable limits" despite alarming comments by military commanders in hard-hit areas that they were running critically short of medicines.

Meanwhile, the official death toll in the catastrophe that began late last month when moonsoon rains flooded the world's most densely populated nation rose to at least 1,378. Many of the victims died of diarrheal diseases caused by the consumption of tainted drinking water and contaminated food, officials said.They said 36,157 new cases of gastro-intestinal diseases - primarily of hard-to-cure shigalosis diarrhea - were reported in the 24-hour period ending Wednesday morning.

The water control board said floodwaters across the nation of 110 million people continued to recede slowly because of high tides along the southern Bay of Bengal, into which all of Bangladesh's rivers empty.