- Title: MYANMAR: Myanmar believes at least 13,000 dead, missing from cyclone
- Date: 6th May 2008
- Summary: (W4) UNITED NATIONS (FILE) (REUTERS) UNITED NATIONS
- Embargoed: 21st May 2008 13:00
- Location: Myanmar
- Country: Burma (Myanmar)
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVA8Y0PN1SA03Z6ZQ7U32VWZR2Q7
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Myanmar's military junta believes at least 10,000 people died in a cyclone that ripped through the Irrawaddy delta, triggering a massive international aid response for the pariah southeast Asian nation on Monday (May 5).
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 mile) per hour winds.
Amateur video obtained by Reuters showed the cyclone's impact on areas around the famous Shwedagon pagoda and Royal Lake in the former capital, Yangon.
Many roofs were ripped off even sturdy buildings, suggesting damage would be severe in shanty towns. State television showed military and police units on rescue and cleanup operations in Yangon, but residents complained the junta's response was weak.
The scale of the disaster from Saturday's (May 3) devastating cyclone 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 secretive military, which has ruled the former Burma for 46 years, has moved even further into the shadows in the past six months due to the widespread outrage at its bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September.
General Thein Sein, Myanmar's prime minister, was appointed to lead the relief effort, and toured areas hit by the storm.
On Monday, he toured damaged areas, addressed residents and visited injured in hospital.
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 said he was "very saddened by all the Myanmese people having been struck by this cyclone"
and pledged to mobilize international aid and assistance as needed.
In 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 sold out of candles and batteries and there was no word when power would be restored.
Despite the devastation, Myanmar's leaders, in the isolated new capital of Naypyidaw 400 kilometres (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.
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