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100,000 may have died in cyclone

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Adrienne
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« on: May 07, 2008, 01:05:07 pm »

U.S. envoy: Myanmar deaths may top 100,000

Story Highlights
NEW: U.S. diplomat says cyclone death toll may be more than 100,000

Aid groups and countries frustrated by their lack of access to Myanmar

U.N. says hungry survivors have stormed a few reopened shops

Experts predict the survivors will face long-term food shortages


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YANGON, Myanmar (CNN) -- The death toll from the cyclone that ravaged the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar may exceed 100,000, the senior U.S. diplomat in the military-ruled country said Wednesday.




A girl drinks water from a container as her homeless family eat donated food in the outskirts of Yangon on May 7.

1 of 3more photos   "The information we are receiving indicates over 100,000 deaths," the U.S. Charge D'Affaires in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, said on a conference call.

The U.S. figure is almost five times more than the 22,000 the Myanmar government has estimated.

Little aid has reached the area since Cyclone Nargis hit last weekend, and on Wednesday crowds of hungry survivors stormed reopened shops in the devastated Irrawaddy delta.

The United Nations urged the military junta to grant visas to international relief workers amid estimates of one million homeless.

Charity workers have gathered at Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, with vehicles, emergency food supplies and medicine, waiting for their visa requests to be approved.

"We need this to move much faster," said John Holmes, UN humanitarian chief, after reading a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

There were earlier reports of "civil unrest" in the worst-hit areas where people are scrambling for limited food supplies, a U.N. spokesman told CNN.

In the flood-soaked Irrawaddy delta townships, U.N. assessment teams observed "large crowds gathering around shops -- the few that were open -- literally fighting over the chance to buy what food was available," World Food Program spokesman Paul Risley said Wednesday from his office in Bangkok.

There were also also reports of price gouging in urban areas around Yangon, Myanmar's largest city and former capital.  See amateur video of the cyclone's impact.

"There were long lines of people trying to buy what food was available, even at those higher prices," Risley said.

The delta, Myanmar's rice-growing heartland, has been devastated by Cyclone Nargis, threatening long-term food shortages for survivors, experts said.

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"We can't delay on this -- this is a huge disaster and the longer (Myanmar) waits the worse it's going to become," International Rescue Committee spokesman Gregory Beck said.

The Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that five states hit hardest by Saturday's cyclone produce 65 percent of the country's rice, The Associated Press reported.

"There is likely going to be incredible shortages in the next 18 to 24 months," Sean Turnell, an economist specializing in Myanmar at Australia's Macquarie University told AP.

Holmes said 24 countries had pledged financial support, with a total of $30 million expected in aid.

The WFP, which has started feeding the estimated one million homeless, said there were immediate concerns about salvaging harvested rice in the flooded Irrawaddy delta.  An iReporter documents the destruction

The cyclone battered the country with winds of 240kph (150mph) and 3.5 meter (11.48 feet) storm water surges.

Damage was also extensive in the country's largest city, Yangon. Much of the former capital is without power and littered with debris and fallen trees.  See photos of the destruction

CNN's Dan Rivers, the first Western journalist into the devastated town of Bogalay, said Wednesday that it was difficult to find the words to describe the level of destruction.  Watch Rivers' report from Bogalay

"Ninety percent of the houses have been flattened... the help that these people are getting seems to be pretty much nonexistent from what we've seen."

He saw members of Myanmar's army clearing roads, but handing out little food or medicine.

"There has been scant help, really. I think we saw one or two Red Cross vehicles in the entire time we were driving," Rivers said of his travels over a 12-hour period.  Learn more about Myanmar

Hundreds of World Vision staff are already in Myanmar with limited supplies, according to Bangkok spokesman James East.

Tons of supplies have been readied in Dubai and can be brought in quickly once clearance is given.

"Even when aid comes in, it's going to be a logistical nightmare to get it out to the remote delta region," East said.

However, Yangon is almost back to normal, World Vision health adviser Dr. Kyi Minn said. Roads have been cleared of debris, and electricity and potable water are available.

The Myanmar Red Cross has been handing out relief supplies, such as clean drinking water, plastic sheeting, clothing, insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent malaria, and kitchen items, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.  Watch the cyclone's destruction

The United States has pledged $3.25 million and offered to send Navy ships to the region to help relief efforts -- if Myanmar's government agrees.

The U.S. military has flown six cargo helicopters onto a Thai airbase, as Washington awaits permission to go into the south Asian country, two senior military officials told CNN's Barbara Starr.


Other countries and world bodies including Britain, Japan, the European Union, China, India, Thailand, Australia, Canada and Bangladesh have also pitched in.

Based on a satellite map made available by the U.N., the storm's damage was concentrated over about a 30,000-square-kilometer area along the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Martaban coastlines, home to nearly a quarter of Myanmar's 57 million people.  Watch as some aid arrives in Myanmar

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/05/07/myanmar.aidcyclone/index.html
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