Myanmar cyclone death tops 15,000; many more missing

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Old 06-May-2008
Myanmar cyclone death tops 15,000; many more missing

YANGON - At least 15,000 people were killed and up to 30,000 missing as a result of a huge storm surge that accompanied a devastating cyclone in Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta, officials said on Tuesday, warning the toll was likely to rise as rescuers reached remote areas.

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

Thailand's foreign minister, Noppadol Pattama, said after a meeting with Myanmar's ambassador to Bangkok that he'd been told 30,000 people were missing following Friday's devastating storm.

"The losses have been much greater than we anticipated," Noppadol said after ambassador Ye Win declined to speak to reporters.

The total left homeless by the 190 km (120 miles) per hour winds and 12 foot (3.5 meter) storm surge is in the several hundred thousands, United Nations aid officials say, and could run into the millions.

The scale of the disaster drew a rare acceptance of outside help from the diplomatically isolated generals, who spurned such approaches in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Bernard Delpuech, a European Union aid official in Yangon, said the junta had sent three ships carrying food to the delta region, rice bowl for Myanmar's 53 million people. Nearly half the population live in the five disaster-hit states.


Aid agency World Vision in Australia said it had been granted special visas to send in personnel to back up 600 staff in the impoverished Southeast Asian country.

"This is massive. It is not necessarily quite tsunami level, but in terms of impact of millions displaced, thousands dead, it is just terrible," World Vision Australia head Tim Costello said.

"Organizations like ours have been given permission, which is pretty unprecedented, to fly people in. This shows how grave it is in the Burmese government's mind," he said.

The town-by-town list of dead and missing announced by Nyan Win showed 14,859 deaths in the Irrawaddy division and 59 in Yangon, the biggest city of five million and the former capital.

The hardest-hit area was the Irrawaddy region where about 10,000 people died in Bogalay, 90 kms (55 miles) southwest of Yangon.

In Yangon people were queuing up for bottled water and there was still no electricity four days after the vicious Cyclone Nargis struck.

"Generators are selling very well under the generals," said one man waiting outside a shop, reflecting some of the resentment on the streets to what many described as a slow warning and response.

Very few soldiers were seen clearing debris and trees, except at major intersections, residents in the former capital said. Monks and residents, using what tools they had, cut trees.

The junta has moved even further into the shadows in the last six months due to widespread outrage at its bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September.

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