Myanmar toll ‘at least 15,000’

Cyclone leaves hundreds of thousands homeless and warnings death toll could rise.

Nargis knocked out power and caused widespread flooding and damage [AFP]
The Myanmar government has said that the toll from Saturday’s cyclone has risen to 15,000 and is likely to rise.

Nyan Win, the foreign minister, said on state television that 10,000 people had died in just one town, Bogalay, as he gave the first detailed account of what is emerging as the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 people were killed in Bangladesh.


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“In Irrawaddy Division the death toll amounts to more than 10,000,” he said in a state television broadcast.


“The missing is about 3,000. In Bogalay, the death toll is about 10,000.


“Information is still being collected, and there could be more casualties.”


The minister also said the military government welcomed outside assistance, an unprecedented green light to governments and aid agencies who want to help with the recovery.


But Al Jazeera’s Laura Kyle, reporting from Bangkok, said while aid agencies were ready to render assistance, they had not yet been able to get inside the country despite the government’s apparent green light.

Nargis swept through Myanmar on Saturday, knocking out power and causing widespread flooding and damage.

Our correspondent reported aid agencies estimating the toll to be up to 20,000.
Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless.
James East, of the World Vision aid agency which has nearly 500 staff in the country, told Al Jazeera that the agency had been told by government officials that 90 to 95 per cent of the homes in eight townships had been severely damaged. 


“When we added up the numbers that comes to somewhere in the region of two million people.”


Groups are concerned the government will not
be able to cope with the disaster [EPA]

Thousands of people, especially those in the shanty towns, have no shelter, power or water.

The cyclone ripped through the heart of the rice-growing regions, jeopardising supplies of the staple crop.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is already one of Asia’s poorest nations.
Neighbouring Thailand has offered to send emergency food and medicine and it is likely that UN relief will be funnelled through the country.
Norway has promised 1.3m ($1.96m), channelled through the UN or Red Cross rather than the government, for the disaster.
The UN said on Monday that the government had accepted its offer of help, with shipments of food, shelter and medical supplies being prepared immediately.
Al Jazeera’s John Terrett at the UN headquarters in New York said that the UN Asian disaster assessment team based in Thailand has been on alert since Saturday to enter Myanmar to offer assistance.
UN disaster experts say it could be days before the full extent of the damage is known because of the government’s tight controls on communications.

‘Dire situation’


Al Jazeera’s correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said although the clean up operation in the costal city of Yangon – the former capital and biggest city – appeared to be going quite well, the situation was dire in other areas.


Electricity and water lines were down, but the military and police were on the ground clearing trees off the road and getting water supplies to people in Yangon, she said.


Locals and the military have begun the
clean-up in Yangon [AFP]

But in the Irrawaddy Delta, a huge area just a few hours from Yangon, the situation was dire and appeared to be getting worse by the hour.


Chris Kaye, the UN’s acting humanitarian co-ordinator in Yangon, confirmed that “the Irrawaddy delta was hit extremely hard not only because of the wind and rain but because of the storm surge”.


“The villages there have reportedly been completely flattened.”


It is unknown to what extent the destruction caused by the cyclone will affect the holding of a referendum on May 10, on a new charter backed by the ruling generals.


But the government indicated that it would proceed as planned.


“It’s only a few days left before the coming referendum and people are eager to cast their vote,” the state-owned newspaper Myanma Ahlin said on Monday.


The military says the vote is the first stage in a seven-step “road map to democracy”, intended to culminate in multi-party elections in 2010.


The process has been criticised by opposition groups which say the process is intended only to tighten the military’s grip on power.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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