Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Postcyclone Challenge for Burma (Myanmar): Deliver Relief Fast

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Postcyclone Challenge for Burma (Myanmar): Deliver Relief Fast

Article excerpt

In a rapidly escalating death toll, a cyclone that ripped through Burma (Myanmar) on Saturday killed nearly 4,000 people, not 351 as originally announced, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in Asia since the tsunami of 2004, authorities said on Monday.

But that death toll, which accounts for only two of five areas hit, could rise as high as 10,000 in coming days, government officials said, while relief agencies warned that rescue operations would be critically hampered by the remoteness of the disaster region, home to 24 million people.

Concerns of higher death tolls have been further exacerbated by the political isolation of the military-led government of Burma, which has largely shut itself off from the outside world, and which many feared would reject international assistance.

But relief agencies said Monday they were confident that international relief would be allowed into the country, following a meeting between government officials and the head of the United Nations relief agencies in Burma on Monday. And state authorities issued appeals for international aid.

"The acting head of the UN agencies ... received positive indications that international assistance would be invited and accepted into the country," says Paul Risley, a spokesman for the World Food Program's Asia office in Bangkok, Thailand. "We are continuing assessments on the ground, and as soon as these assessments provide more details, we will be able to test that invitation.'

'Entire village wiped out'

When it set down with 120 mile-per-hour winds on Saturday, cyclone Nargis ripped apart cities, shantytowns, and villages throughout this nation of 56 million, leaving a path of destruction and hundreds of thousands homeless as it arced from the Irrawaddy delta in the southwest to Rangoon (Yangon), the former capital, farther north. The city was reduced to a chaotic standstill by Monday, with no electricity and long lines for water, the Associated Press reported, adding that at least one entire village has been wiped out.

The cyclone comes just days before the ruling military junta is scheduled to hold a referendum on an army-drafted charter for a new constitution. …

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