Death toll from cyclone in Myanmar continues to rise

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

In a radio broadcast, government officials in Myanmar say that 22,464 people have been confirmed dead from Cyclone Nargis which struck the nation on May 2-3.

As rescue workers reach the most hard hit areas of the storm, they only began to realize the damage it caused. At least 10,000 people died in one town alone, Bogalay in the Pyapon District of Myanmar.

Hundreds of thousands are homeless and another three thousand have been injured by the storm. Drinking water is contaminated and food is becoming scarce as the United Nations (U.N.) and other organizations try to get supplies to the region.

"The U.N. will begin preparing assistance now to be delivered and transported to Myanmar as quickly as possible," said Paul Risley, a World Food Program (WFP) spokesman.

Food is not an emergency priority. Water and shelter are.

—Richard Horsey, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid

Aid began to arrive in Myanmar on Tuesday, where more than 40,000 are still listed as missing. However, the delta-region of the Ayeyarwady River remains cut off from the rest of the world.

Caryl Stern, head of the United Nations Children's Fund, said "Our biggest fear is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself."

George W. Bush called on the government of Myanmar to allow the United States to provide disaster assistance. The United States Navy reportedly has three ship in the Gulf of Thailand which are within a short distance of the area. The country has had strained relations with both the United States and the European Union.

Richard Horsey, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, said "The biggest problem will be to reach the affected areas. There will be a huge logistical problem."

Helicopters and boats would be needed to reach many areas. Horsey said, "The big concern is waterborne diseases. So that's why it's crucial to get safe water in. Then mosquito nets, cooking kits and clothing in the next few days."

"Food is not an emergency priority. Water and shelter are," Horsey added.


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