At least 50 people have been confirmed dead and nearly 1,800 are missing nearly a week after a massive storm lashed trawlers fishing in the Bay of Bengal, officials in Bangladesh said on Monday.
One official said rescuers, who have stepped up their search amid improved weather conditions, were not hopeful of finding survivors -- although in the past many fishermen have returned home more than a week after storms.
"We have sent two teams to the remote islands of Phatrar Char and Laldia, hoping to find bodies there," said Kazi Obaidur Rahman, administrator of the worst affected coastal district of Barguna.
"The fishermen came back and said they had seen scores of bodies floating along the islands," Rahman said.
The government's food and disaster ministry said on Monday that at least 50 bodies had so far been recovered, including 13 more overnight.
The state-owned BSS news agency, however, put the death toll at 85.
The government had said on Sunday at least 1,788 fishermen along with about 400 trawlers were missing after the storm.
Survivors told coast guards in India and Bangladesh that scores of 30 foot (nine metre) fishing trawlers had sunk.
Led by the country's naval chief, the armed forces have launched a massive search operation in the Sunderbans -- an area of dense mangrove forest that lines the worst-hit coastlines of Bangladesh and neighbouring India -- to hunt for the fishermen and a missing naval commander.
"Rear Admiral M Hasan Ali Khan took over the rescue operation on Sunday. He is leading a team of 17 ships, helicopters and a C-130 plane," said armed forces spokesman Colonel Anis.
The ships were searching a 70-km radius offshore and in the Sunderbans, which is criss-crossed by hundreds of tidal rivers, as the weather improved, he added.
The storm also wreaked havoc along the Indian coast in West Bengal state, flattening mud houses and downing trees and utility poles.
Authorities there said at least 29 people were killed and dozens of trawlers remain missing.
Storms and cyclones, which form over the Bay of Bengal in September and October every year kill hundreds and destroy cattle and crops in Bangladesh and in India's eastern coastal states.