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Burma's storm toll 'nears 4,000'

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The death toll from Burma's devastating cyclone has now risen to more than 22,000, state media have said.

Some 41,000 are also missing three days after Cyclone Nargis hit the country, causing a huge tidal surge to sweep inland, according to state radio.

The report came as aid agencies begin what they expect to be a major relief operation to help tens of thousands left without clean water and shelter.

Burma's military government has been criticised over its crisis management.

A number of Burmese nationals and some foreigners have said they were not properly warned by the country's military leaders about the approaching storm.

Some witnesses have also said the government's response to the disaster has so far been slow and inadequate.

US President George W Bush has urged the military to open up to American aid, saying his country was ready to use its navy "to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation".

"But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country," he said.

See the path of Cyclone Nargis

Mr Bush was speaking as he signed legislation awarding the top US civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the detained Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Earlier, Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) criticised the junta for pressing ahead with a constitutional referendum despite the cyclone.

Horrific scenes

State media reported on Tuesday that 22,464 people had now been confirmed as dead and an additional 41,054 people missing as a result of the cyclone.



Eyewitness: After the cyclone

Crucial test for junta

Almost all of the deaths occurred in the Irrawaddy river delta region, where more were killed by the tidal wave than the cyclone itself, Minister for Relief and Resettlement Maung Maung Swe told reporters in Rangoon.

"The wave was up to 12ft (3.5m) high and it swept away and inundated half the houses in low-lying villages," he said. "They did not have anywhere to flee."

Some 95% of the homes in the city of Bogalay in the Irrawaddy delta were destroyed and most of its 190,000 residents are now homeless, he added. The neighbouring areas of Labutta and Pyapon in the southern part of the delta have also been badly affected.

Satellite images released by the US space agency, Nasa, showed virtually the entire coastal plain of the country under water, destroyed roads, downed power lines and flattened houses.

One of the few foreign aid agencies permitted to work inside Burma, World Vision, has described scenes of horror in the affected regions, with rice fields strewn with bodies and desperate survivors without food or shelter.

"They saw the dead bodies from the helicopters, so it's quite overwhelming," Kyi Minn, an adviser to World Vision's office, told the AFP news agency.

The director for the World Food Programme in Burma, Chris Kaye, said information about the destruction in the Irrawaddy Delta was still emerging, but it was clear it was on a very large scale.

"We have a major humanitarian catastrophe in our hands. The numbers of people in need are still to be determined, but I'm sure we're talking of hundreds and thousands," he told the BBC.

Aid appeal

International aid agencies are now beginning a major relief operation to help the hundreds of thousands of survivors left homeless by the cyclone.

Prices of food, fuel and basic necessities have also risen dramatically in the wake of the storm, putting more people at risk.



See how satellites tracked cyclone

But correspondents say Burma, isolated and impoverished, has long been wary of the international community.

Doubts remain about how much access the regime will give to aid workers and there are also concerns about the logistics of reaching remote areas that have been cut off from the outside world, they say.

Burma's military leaders have said they will accept external help, in a move that correspondents say could reflect the scale of the disaster.


Hurricane Katrina, US, 2005 - at least 1,836 dead

Orissa Cyclone, 1999, Northern India - at least 10,000 dead

Hurricane Mitch, 1998, Central America - at least 11,000 dead

Typhoon Thelma, 1991, Philippines - 6,000 dead

Bangladesh cyclone, 1991 - about 138,000 dead

Bhola cyclone, 1970 - at least 300,000 dead


In pictures: Cyclone aftermath

Burma cyclone: The aid challenge

Major cyclones timeline

"The task is very wide and extensive and the government needs the co-operation of the people and well-wishers from at home and abroad," Information Minister Kyaw Hsan was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying on Tuesday.

"We will not hide anything. Please ask the people not to be duped by rumours or fabrication," he said, adding that $4.5m of disaster aid had been set aside.

Burmese state television reported on Tuesday the government had decided to postpone to 24 May the referendum on a new constitution in areas worst-hit by the cyclone - including Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta.

But it said that the vote initially planned for 10 May would proceed as planned in the rest of the country.


Edited by Godgrave
Toll numbers rose from 4,000 to 10,000 to 22,000.

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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I think the UN has also pledged a lot of support. US support, I'm not too sure about those figures especially after watching laura Bush emphatically asking the government to accept US aid, and for just $250,000 is a little disappointing.

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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Some supplies have been allowed into Burma but many more tonnes of aid, and dozens of foreign staff, have not.

cuz the govt don't give a flying fuckin shit for their poor citizens. Ours is no better. They totally tanked the Katrina disaster. Such gross incompetence is deliberate population control. Its easier to let ppl die off from "natural disasters" then to waste bullets and look like bad guys for committing systematic slaughter.


                                               Look at the flowers

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