At least 98 people have been killed and thousands left homeless after Hurricane Felix lashed Nicaragua and Honduras earlier this week, officials say.
Aid has begun to arrive from nearby countries
Dozens of people are still missing and rescuers are trawling jungles, open seas and beaches for more survivors.
Both countries remain on alert for heavy floods in the storm's aftermath.
Officials are only now uncovering the scale of devastation caused by Felix, which hit land as a maximum strength category five storm on Tuesday.
"It is worse than we previously thought," Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said as he met officials.
"Many families stayed in their homes. There are many victims,
Nicaragua bore the brunt of the hurricane, with winds of up 256km/h (160mph). Neighbouring Honduras was hit mainly by flooding.
Aid agencies are struggling to reach the worst-affected area, around the Nicaraguan town of Puerto Cabezas. In one case, soldiers distributed food to a remote village where residents had been surviving on nothing but coconuts.
Villagers in the remote north-eastern region, which is largely autonomous from the Managua government, complained that officials had not given them enough warning of the hurricane.
Lucia Parista Mora, 43, told the Associated Press news agency that many people were out in fishing boats when the storm hit, unaware of what was in store.
She feared many more bodies would be found in the ocean.
"We want them to bring them back here, even if it is just bones," she said.
Miskito Indians, who make a living from lobster fishing and agriculture, make up most of the area's population.
Many of the victims were reportedly travelling by boat when they were hit by giant waves, while others appeared to have been sucked into the sea from their houses on the coast.
Rescuers have found bodies floating on the debris-strewn sea, while other bodies have been washed up on beaches.
Emergency aid has been flown into Puerto Cabezas - mainly from other Central American countries - but food and fuel remain scarce.
The UN's World Food Programme has sent nearly five tons of food aid, with supplies also arriving from as far away as Japan.
Correspondents say the storm has revived memories throughout Central America of Hurricane Mitch, which killed some 10,000 people in 1998.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Henriette on Thursday dumped rain on the US states on Arizona and New Mexico, before dissipating.
Henriette - then at hurricane strength - hit Mexico's western Sonora state with winds of up to 120km/h (75mph), a day after lashing Baja California.
It has left nine people dead in Mexico, with a further 5,000 people still being housed in shelters as more flood warnings are put in place.
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