Myanmar cyclone kills 10,000 people

Government asks for foreign aid as thousands of people remain missing.

    The government says 4,000 have been killed and aid groups say the toll is likely to climb [AFP]

    Nyan Win added that the country would be willing to accept international aid to assist with the disaster, which has left thousands without shelter and water.
    Thailand, Myanmar's neighbour, has offered to send emergency food and medicine.
    Norway has also promised 1.3m ($1.96m), channelled through the UN or Red Cross rather than the government, for the disaster.
    UN 'to enter'
    The UN said on Monday that the government had accepted its offer to help, with shipments of aid being prepared immediately.
    Al Jazeera's John Terrett at the UN headquarters in New York said that the United Nations Disaster, Assessment and Co-ordination team, which is based in Thailand, has been put on alert since Saturday to enter Myanmar to offer assistance to the government there.
    He added that this team was expected to enter Myanmar at about 16:30GMT on Monday.
    Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and without clean drinking water, a UN official has said and aid agencies have called on Myanmar's military government to allow free movement so help can be given to victims of the storm.

    UN disaster experts said it could be days before the extent of the damage is known because of the government's tight control of communications.
    Call for access

    The UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said that the government - which has indicated it will press ahead with a referendum on a new constitution on Saturday - was "having as much trouble as anyone else in getting a full overview" of the destruction.


    "Roads are not accessible and many small villages were hit and will take time to reach," Terje Skavdal, the regional head of UNOCHA, said.



    Cyclone Nargis wreaks havoc in Myanmar

    Teams of foreign aid workers were trying to assess the damage and aid needs, but their access and movements are restricted by the military.


    "That is the existing situation for international staff. The way most agencies work is they use national staff who have more freedom to move," Skavdal said.


    "We will have a dialogue with the government to try to get access to the people affected," he added.


    Aid groups' plea


    The Forum for Democracy in Burma and other dissident groups outside of
    Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have also urged the military government to allow aid groups unfettered access to the country.


    "International expertise in dealing with natural disasters is urgently required," said Naing Aung, secretary-general of the Thailand-based group.


    "The military regime is ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of the cyclone."


    The government has declared the former
    capital of Yangon a disaster area

    The government has declared the former capital of Yangon a disaster area after the storm's 190kph winds blew roofs off hospitals and cut off electricity supply.


    Yangon, the Irrawaddy Delta, Bago as well as the Karen and Mon states were heavily damaged and have been declared disaster areas.


    State-controlled television reported that 20,000 homes had been destroyed on Haingyi, an island in the Andaman sea.


    A further 90,000 people on the island, the first part of the country to be hit by the cyclone, were left homeless, the government said.




    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.''


     The storm blew roofs off hospitals and cut off
    electricity supply [AFP]

    Al Jazeera's correspondent in Myanmar said residents living in slums on the outskirts of Yangon have been among the hardest hit as many struggle to repair their homes before the next rainy season downpour.


    The owner of a house which lost its roof in the cyclone said he was not expecting assistance from local authorities as he struggles to feed a family of six after recently losing his factory job.


    "No one has come to help us. Tomorrow I will have to look for another job because I need money to repair my house," he said.


    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 and agencies


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.