Myanmar cyclone toll nears 78,000

Steep rise in death count as pressure mounts on government to allow in foreign aid.

    The UN is now warning that 2.5 million people are facing hunger and disease [AFP]

    Rulers under pressure
     
    Myanmar's military rulers appear to be digging in their heels in the face of mounting international pressure to allow more aid into the country.
     
    John Holmes, the leading UN humanitarian affairs official, is waiting for visa approval to visit Myanmar so he can urge the military government to open up to a full-scale international relief effort.
     
    But one state-run newspaper says Myanmar can rebuild without outside help, even though there is little evidence of that on the ground.
     
    Figures collected from various UN agencies by the International Federation of the Red Cross indicate that between 68,833 and 127,990 people were killed by Cyclone Nargis that swept Myanmar early this month.
     
    And the UN is now warning that 2.5 million people are facing hunger and disease.
     
    But instead of giving out aid, the government is dishing out eviction orders.
     
    Hundreds of displaced villagers taking refuge at a sports hall in Yangon have been told they must go, an Al Jazeera correspondent on the ground reported.
     

    In depth: Myanmar cyclone


    Why Myanmar's generals shun aid



    Disease stalks survivors



    Map: Cyclone's deadly path


    Satellite photos: 

    Before and after



    Timeline: Asia's worst storms



    Picture gallery



    Video: Survivor tells her story



    Video: An emerging epidemic

    Army officers told them they had 24 hours to leave, without explaining why or telling them where they could go.

     

    The villagers of Shu Li Man say they have nowhere to go and say they will not leave.

     

    "I know the soldiers will come but we will stay here, whatever happens. There's nothing else we can do," Thain So, the village chief, told Al Jazeera.

     

    Even at the sports hall, food is scarce and medicine even more scarce.

     

    Disease is the most immediate threat.

     

    More than 16,000 thousand cases of diarrhoea and fever have been reported in Yangon alone.

     

    And with a government quarantine imposed on the entire delta region, the number there must be many times that.

     

    Referendum 'success'

     

    Myanmar's ruling generals announced on Thursday that last weekend's referendum on a new constitution was a resounding success.

     

    The government claims a 99 per cent
    turnout for last week's referendum [AFP]

    The government had gone ahead with the vote in all but the worst cyclone-affected areas of the country, ignoring criticism at home and abroad.

     

    Many blame the generals' sensitivity over the vote for their reluctance to admit foreign aid in the days after the cyclone hit.

     

    Few are surprised that they claimed a 92.4 per cent vote in their favour and a 99 per cent turnout.

     

    The numbers will give little comfort to the villagers of Shu Li Man as they face eviction from the only home they have left.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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