- Title: VARIOUS: Myanmar appeals to international community for aid after cyclone
- Date: 6th May 2008
- Summary: (BN01) YANGON, MYANMAR (MAY 5, 2008) (REUTERS) WIDE OF STREET
- Reuters ID: LVA7MTZO04AKFCMOLO0S3RCKLR3V
- Duration: 00:00:05
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: Countries around the globe have promised help for Myanmar after a cyclone left at least 13,000 dead or missing-- but how quickly aid can move into the tightly controlled country was unclear on Tuesday (May 6).
The cyclone ripped through the Irrawaddy delta on Saturday (May 3), and, after an initial count of a few hundred dead, Myanmar announced much bigger figures late on Monday (May 5).
The last major storm to ravage Asia was Cyclone Sidr which killed 3,300 people in Bangladesh last November.
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.
The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar authorised the release of of $250,000 U.S.
dollars in immediate emergency aid, and U.S. first lady Laura Bush promised more would be forthcoming.
However, she urged Myanmar's military rulers to first accept a U.S.
disaster response team that so far has been kept out, saying it would clear the way for broader aid.
U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said a team was "standing by and ready to go into Burma", now known as Myanmar.
The secretive military, which has ruled for 46 years, has moved even further into the shadows in the last six months due to the widespread outrage at its bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September.
The official toll on state media stands at 3,394 dead and 2,879 missing, although those figures only cover two of the five declared disaster zones, where U.N. officials say hundreds of thousands are without shelter or drinking water.
First Lady Bush, who rarely speaks on foreign policy but has previously been vocal on Mynamar, also criticised Yangon for failing to give its citizens adequate warning about the storm.
"Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storms path. The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta's failure to meet it's peoples' basic needs," she said.
"I'm worried that they won't even accept U.S. aid and I urge the government to accept aid from the United States and from the entire international community right now while the needs of their people are so critical," she added.
The casualty count has been rising quickly as authorities reach hard-hit islands and villages in the Irrawaddy delta, the former "rice bowl of Asia" which bore the brunt of Cyclone Nargis's 190 km (120 miles) per hour winds.
After getting a "careful green light" from the government, the United Nations said it was pulling out all the stops to send in emergency aid such as food, clean water, blankets and plastic sheeting.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon pledged the full support of his organisations.
"I am very saddened by all the Myanmarese people having been struck by this cyclone. The United Nations will do whatever... to provide urgent humanitarian assistance. Because of the lack of communications and information, we are not quite sure what the total extent of damages and casualties, but I am very much alarmed by the incoming news that the casualties have risen more than 10,000 people already," he said.
The U.N. office in Yangon said there was an urgent need for plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, cooking equipment, mosquito nets, health kits and food.
It said the situation outside Yangon was "critical, with shelter and safe water being the principal immediate needs."
Two Indian naval ships loaded with food, tents, blankets, clothing and medicines would sail for Yangon soon, Indian's Ministry of External Affairs said.
The country's state-run television appealed to the world for more help on Tuesday.
"According to the updated news over 10,000 people were killed in Irrawaddy division and 59 in Yangon division while the number of the missing is about 3,000. The detailed news and data are still collecting so there may be much more casualties. The government is now rendering utmost assistance and reconstructing the damages in storm-hit regions. That's why it is our pleasure if other countries will render assistance to our country while our people are in emergency need," its newsreader said.
The junta leaders, bunkered in their remote new capital of Naypyidaw, 400 km (240 miles) north of Yangon, said they would go ahead with a May 10 referendum on a new army-drafted constitution that critics say will entrench the military.
In the former capital Yangon, food and fuel prices soared and aid agencies scrambled to deliver emergency supplies and assess the damage in the five declared disaster zones, home to 24 million people.
Clean water was scarce. Most shops had sold out of candles and batteries and there was no word when power would be restored.
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