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Video Burma cyclone disaster: UN says 102,000 dead - Page 3
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  1. #21
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    Fears rise over Burma aid delays



    Hundreds of thousands of people need food, water and shelter


    Burma's leaders are facing growing international concern over their reluctance to accept foreign aid, days after the devastating cyclone.
    The UN says its planes carrying vital food supplies cannot enter because they still do not have permission to land.
    But the regime has now given permission for at least one US aid flight to land in the country.

    A US diplomat has said conditions are "horrendous" and warned the death toll could top 100,000 if they worsened.
    Teams reaching some of the worst-hit areas have described harrowing scenes.

    Some aid workers reported bodies rotting in the fields and desperate survivors fighting over food and water.


    UK agencies launch appeal


    Buildings have been swept away, leaving up to a million people homeless, and swathes of land are under water, sparking fears of disease.

    Burmese troops are pushing into the affected areas but BBC correspondents say their resources are inadequate to deal with a disaster of this magnitude.
    A four-man UN assessment team is due on the ground in Burma later on Thursday.

    Experts say that a massive aid operation is needed to help those affected by Cyclone Nargis, which smashed into the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region on Saturday.
    But the Burmese government has spurned some offers of aid, such as one from the US to deploy navy ships, and many foreign aid workers are being held in a queue for visas.

    The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said three UN flights from Bangkok, Dhaka and Dubai with 40 tonnes of high energy biscuits were still awaiting clearance by Burmese authorities.

    WFP spokesman Paul Risley told AP news agency: "It is especially frustrating that critically needed food aid is being held up."

    Late on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Burma had to let the international community help.
    "It should be a simple matter. It's not a matter of politics. It's a matter of a humanitarian crisis," she said.
    The regional Association of South-East Asian Nations has also urged the military regime to allow in aid flights "before it's too late".

    Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said it was trying to communicate to the military regime the sense of urgency.
    China, a close ally of Burma, has also urged it to work with the international community. Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang added that Beijing would raise its relief aid to $5.3m.

    UK aid agencies have launched an urgent joint appeal to raise funds for victims. The Disasters Emergency Committee said the need for aid was "immediate and vast".
    Burma's military regime has meanwhile urged citizens to ignore rumours of looting, with state media saying they were being spread by "unscrupulous persons".


    'Mistrustful'
    On Wednesday, the top US diplomat in Burma said that the number of deaths could be much higher than reported.

    Burmese state media says 22,980 people have been confirmed dead and another 42,119 are missing.

    But Shari Villarosa, the charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Burma said the death toll could reach or exceed 100,000, based on information from a non-governmental organisation that she would not name.

    A local military official, Tin Win, told AFP news agency 80,000 had died in the remote district of Labutta alone.
    Survivors in the district described the sea surge brought by Saturday's storm.
    "The waves were so strong, they ripped off all my clothes. I was left naked hanging in a tree," one teenager said.
    "The storm came into our village, and a giant wave washed in, dragging everything into the sea," said another man in his 20s.

    The BBC's Paul Danahar, in southern Burma, says that those still alive are surrounded by the dead - and they are without food and shelter.
    He adds that while some aid is trickling into the country, much more is lying idle on its borders.

    This weekend there is to be a referendum on a new constitution. The international community has already condemned it as a sham.
    The generals may be worried that letting in foreigners ahead of the that poll could stoke more criticism of their political reforms, our correspondent says.


    Abridged from BBC News

  2. #22
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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    Left in the lurch

    Bangkok Post and Agencies

    Day Six of the cyclone disaster: The military junta threw up red tape and delays against aid workers and requests to at least waive visa requirements and get relief goods moving. The senior US diplomat in Burma and the exile government in Thailand said separately the death toll is likely 100,000, and the first hungry crowds of survivors stormed village shops, desperate for food.

    International relief agencies are still waiting for permission to enter Burma so they can take much-needed aid to hundreds of thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis.

    The weekend cyclone left millions homeless and without food and water.

    The government says more than 22,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 people are missing.

    More than 100,000 people need urgent humanitarian assistance.

    "A few visas are coming through, but the general picture is that a significant number of the key staff have not got their visas approved," said Richard Horsey, spokesman for the United Nations disaster response office in Bangkok.

    "Clearly, this is a concern because it is very important that those staff with disaster response experience and coordinating can deploy as quickly as possible," Horsey said. "What you basically need to get is a logistical pipeline that is big enough and running smoothly enough to channel humanitarian relief from outside the country to the people who need it."

    military regime has appealed for international aid to cope with the massive destruction wrought by Cyclone Nargis.

    The military regime has appealed for international aid to cope with the massive destruction wrought by Cyclone Nargis. Then it put up numerous barriers against getting the aid to the needy. On Monday, the embassy in Bangkok simply took the day off, and things haven't improved much since then.

    American diplomat Shari Villarosa, who heads the US embassy in Rangoon, said the number of dead could eventually exceed 100,000 because safe food and water were scarce and unsanitary conditions widespread.

    The situation is "increasingly horrendous," she said in a telephone call to reporters. "There is a very real risk of disease outbreaks."

    Aung So, director of the office of the country's exile government in Mae Sot in northern Thailand, also said "we are assuming that at least 100,000 have died."

    A few shops reopened in the Irrawaddy delta, but they were quickly overwhelmed by desperate people, said Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in Bangkok, Thailand, quoting his agency's workers in the area.

    "Fistfights are breaking out," he said.

    A foreign resident of Rangoon who returned to the city from the delta area said people were drinking coconut water because there was no safe drinking water. He said many people were on boats using blankets as sails. Of course he could not allow use of his name, because the military dictators threaten to punish any one who talks.

    The UN asked the government in Burma to waive visas for relief workers assembled in Bangkok so they can begin their journey to Burma, said Rachid Khalikov, an official of the UN emergency relief department.

    "So far, there are no instructions for visas in Bangkok," Mr Khalikov said.

    International charity Save the Children said Burma authorities had given aid workers no word on when visas would be granted.

    "We have no idea of what progress, if any, will be made on visa management," its Bangkok-based spokesman Dan Collinson said after meeting relief agencies at UN offices here.

    "We're frustrated. At the moment we still have a reasonable amount of capacity in-country, but that's going to run out quickly," he said.

    "I think the maximum amount of pressure is being applied at the highest level of UN discussions."

    Burma's junta is also barring foreign journalists from entering the country and has expelled one BBC reporter, state media said. BBC Asia correspondent Andrew Harding was stopped by Burmese immigration officials at Rangoon International Airport from entering the country on Monday, and sent back to Thailand, state-run MRTV reported.

    Richard Horsey of the UN disaster response office said Burma's junta knows it needs outside help, but it must act now to remove red tape delaying a massive international aid operation.

    With large swathes of the Irrawaddy delta under water and so many people in need of help, the disaster presents a "major logistical challenge", said Mr Horsey. "The government recognises this is an unprecedented emergency for Burma and it will require a huge relief effort with a big international component," he said.

    "Visa applications have been in for 24 to 48 hours," Mr Horsey said. "Now is the time that movement is expected on that and we do look to the authorities to issue the necessary clearances."

    In Thailand, Woradet Veerawekin, deputy director-general of the Department of Information in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn ordered her personal secretary Khunying Araya Piboonnakarin to check what basic necessities were in demand, so that relief could be granted.

    Meanwhile, Burmese officials have denied they will close the border checkpoint of Tachilek during the country's charter referendum, which will take place in some areas tomorrow and on Saturday. They said the route was important for transporting food and medicines to victims of the cyclone.

    The junta decided to postpone the referendum from Saturday to May 24 in five cities, including the former capital of Rangoon, which was hit by the storm.

    Meanwhile, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry Prat Boonyawongwiroj said people wanting to donate drinking water or food to help the Burmese could take items to the ministry, the Food and Drug Administration, the air force or the Thai Red Cross.

  3. #23
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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    Left in the lurch

    Bangkok Post and Agencies

    Day Six of the cyclone disaster: The military junta threw up red tape and delays against aid workers and requests to at least waive visa requirements and get relief goods moving. The senior US diplomat in Burma and the exile government in Thailand said separately the death toll is likely 100,000, and the first hungry crowds of survivors stormed village shops, desperate for food.

    International relief agencies are still waiting for permission to enter Burma so they can take much-needed aid to hundreds of thousands of victims of Cyclone Nargis.

    The weekend cyclone left millions homeless and without food and water.

    The government says more than 22,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 people are missing.

    More than 100,000 people need urgent humanitarian assistance.

    "A few visas are coming through, but the general picture is that a significant number of the key staff have not got their visas approved," said Richard Horsey, spokesman for the United Nations disaster response office in Bangkok.

    "Clearly, this is a concern because it is very important that those staff with disaster response experience and coordinating can deploy as quickly as possible," Horsey said. "What you basically need to get is a logistical pipeline that is big enough and running smoothly enough to channel humanitarian relief from outside the country to the people who need it."

    military regime has appealed for international aid to cope with the massive destruction wrought by Cyclone Nargis.

    The military regime has appealed for international aid to cope with the massive destruction wrought by Cyclone Nargis. Then it put up numerous barriers against getting the aid to the needy. On Monday, the embassy in Bangkok simply took the day off, and things haven't improved much since then.

    American diplomat Shari Villarosa, who heads the US embassy in Rangoon, said the number of dead could eventually exceed 100,000 because safe food and water were scarce and unsanitary conditions widespread.

    The situation is "increasingly horrendous," she said in a telephone call to reporters. "There is a very real risk of disease outbreaks."

    Aung So, director of the office of the country's exile government in Mae Sot in northern Thailand, also said "we are assuming that at least 100,000 have died."

    A few shops reopened in the Irrawaddy delta, but they were quickly overwhelmed by desperate people, said Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in Bangkok, Thailand, quoting his agency's workers in the area.

    "Fistfights are breaking out," he said.

    A foreign resident of Rangoon who returned to the city from the delta area said people were drinking coconut water because there was no safe drinking water. He said many people were on boats using blankets as sails. Of course he could not allow use of his name, because the military dictators threaten to punish any one who talks.

    The UN asked the government in Burma to waive visas for relief workers assembled in Bangkok so they can begin their journey to Burma, said Rachid Khalikov, an official of the UN emergency relief department.

    "So far, there are no instructions for visas in Bangkok," Mr Khalikov said.

    International charity Save the Children said Burma authorities had given aid workers no word on when visas would be granted.

    "We have no idea of what progress, if any, will be made on visa management," its Bangkok-based spokesman Dan Collinson said after meeting relief agencies at UN offices here.

    "We're frustrated. At the moment we still have a reasonable amount of capacity in-country, but that's going to run out quickly," he said.

    "I think the maximum amount of pressure is being applied at the highest level of UN discussions."

    Burma's junta is also barring foreign journalists from entering the country and has expelled one BBC reporter, state media said. BBC Asia correspondent Andrew Harding was stopped by Burmese immigration officials at Rangoon International Airport from entering the country on Monday, and sent back to Thailand, state-run MRTV reported.

    Richard Horsey of the UN disaster response office said Burma's junta knows it needs outside help, but it must act now to remove red tape delaying a massive international aid operation.

    With large swathes of the Irrawaddy delta under water and so many people in need of help, the disaster presents a "major logistical challenge", said Mr Horsey. "The government recognises this is an unprecedented emergency for Burma and it will require a huge relief effort with a big international component," he said.

    "Visa applications have been in for 24 to 48 hours," Mr Horsey said. "Now is the time that movement is expected on that and we do look to the authorities to issue the necessary clearances."

    In Thailand, Woradet Veerawekin, deputy director-general of the Department of Information in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn ordered her personal secretary Khunying Araya Piboonnakarin to check what basic necessities were in demand, so that relief could be granted.

    Meanwhile, Burmese officials have denied they will close the border checkpoint of Tachilek during the country's charter referendum, which will take place in some areas tomorrow and on Saturday. They said the route was important for transporting food and medicines to victims of the cyclone.

    The junta decided to postpone the referendum from Saturday to May 24 in five cities, including the former capital of Rangoon, which was hit by the storm.

    Meanwhile, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry Prat Boonyawongwiroj said people wanting to donate drinking water or food to help the Burmese could take items to the ministry, the Food and Drug Administration, the air force or the Thai Red Cross.

  4. #24
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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    Deadly cyclone poses political risks for the generals BURMA

    GRANT PECK

    The deadly cyclone that ripped into Burma over the weekend could shake the stranglehold on power of the country's ruling generals _ becoming a force for change more powerful than massive pro-democracy demonstrations and international sanctions. Natural disasters by themselves are unlikely to trigger change, but instead tend to help undermine already corrupt or failing systems.

    Few people think revolution is in the air in Burma _ not while the victims are still burying their dead, now totalling 22,000 and climbing.

    But by an unusual accident of timing, the cyclone ripped through the country last Saturday, just a week before the May 10 referendum on a proposed constitution that the military hoped would go smoothly in its favour, despite opposition from the country's feisty pro-democracy movement.

    The vote now gives people a rare and relatively safe way to express their discontent with the country's junta. The higher the death toll climbs _ and the less effective the government's relief efforts prove _ the bigger the potential for undermining the military's mandate to rule. Already, in a society that is notably superstitious, the bad aura surrounding the tragedy has attached itself to the junta. ''The juxtaposition of the cyclone and the voting might cause many in Burma to feel this is an indication that the military should not be in power,'' said David Steinberg, a Burma expert at Georgetown University.

    He said traditional views in some parts of Asia consider rulers as responsible for natural conditions. If disaster struck, the administration could be considered to have lost the ''mandate of heaven''.

    The military has long ruled by fear, especially ever since 1988 when thousands were killed when the army quashed massive pro-democracy demonstrations. The lesson was reinforced last year, when new pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks were suppressed by force, with at least 31 people killed and thousands arrested.

    ''I have been struck (by)... how open many in Burma have been in contrasting the regime's rapid and in-force response to the events of last year, and their all-too-typical laggardly and underwhelming response to disasters such as this,'' said Sean Turnell, an economist specialising in Burma at Australia's Macquarie University. ''Responding to natural disasters is precisely the sort of thing 'real' armies do well elsewhere, but never in Burma.''

    While the military and other government authorities kept a low profile Monday in Rangoon's storm-battered streets, civilians and Buddhist monks banded together, wielding axes and knives to clear roads of tree trunks and branches torn off by the cyclone's 190kph winds.

    ''Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?'' said one man, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution. ''They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity.''

    Burma's people will likely remember who came out to help them in their time of need. ''If Buddhist monks have mobilised to provide assistance, as often happens in Asian countries, the contrast in response will further work to undermine whatever credibility the junta has left,'' said Ben Wisner, a disaster and urban affairs expert at Oberlin University.

    The need for a massive relief effort poses a dilemma for the junta: how much assistance to accept from abroad. Allowing any major influx of foreigners could carry risks for the military, injecting unwanted outside influence and giving the aid givers rather than the junta credit for a recovery. However, keeping out international aid would focus blame squarely on the military should it fail to restore people's livelihoods.

    The most extreme change could come within the military itself. The cyclone's aftermath, said Mr Turnell, ''may also just present an opportunity for more moderate, rational people in the military to assume greater control''.

    If the relief effort discredits the current leadership, said Josef Silverstein, a Burma expert, younger officers could take the opportunity to make a bid for power.

    ''With the devastating sudden impact of natural disasters, there tends to be a huge anger from the public for the inadequacies of the state to respond to the needs of disaster-affected people,'' noted Dr Alpaslan Ozerdem of the University of York.

    Cases in recent history where disasters helped blaze a trail for reforms include a 1985 earthquake in Mexico that many believe marked the beginning of the end for the long-ruling PRI party; Nicaragua's 1972 earthquake, which led to the decline of the dictator Somoza; and a 1970 cyclone where Pakistan's inadequate relief efforts contributed to the breakaway of the country's east to form Bangladesh. AP

    Bangkok Post

  5. #25
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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    Deadly cyclone poses political risks for the generals BURMA

    GRANT PECK

    The deadly cyclone that ripped into Burma over the weekend could shake the stranglehold on power of the country's ruling generals _ becoming a force for change more powerful than massive pro-democracy demonstrations and international sanctions. Natural disasters by themselves are unlikely to trigger change, but instead tend to help undermine already corrupt or failing systems.

    Few people think revolution is in the air in Burma _ not while the victims are still burying their dead, now totalling 22,000 and climbing.

    But by an unusual accident of timing, the cyclone ripped through the country last Saturday, just a week before the May 10 referendum on a proposed constitution that the military hoped would go smoothly in its favour, despite opposition from the country's feisty pro-democracy movement.

    The vote now gives people a rare and relatively safe way to express their discontent with the country's junta. The higher the death toll climbs _ and the less effective the government's relief efforts prove _ the bigger the potential for undermining the military's mandate to rule. Already, in a society that is notably superstitious, the bad aura surrounding the tragedy has attached itself to the junta. ''The juxtaposition of the cyclone and the voting might cause many in Burma to feel this is an indication that the military should not be in power,'' said David Steinberg, a Burma expert at Georgetown University.

    He said traditional views in some parts of Asia consider rulers as responsible for natural conditions. If disaster struck, the administration could be considered to have lost the ''mandate of heaven''.

    The military has long ruled by fear, especially ever since 1988 when thousands were killed when the army quashed massive pro-democracy demonstrations. The lesson was reinforced last year, when new pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks were suppressed by force, with at least 31 people killed and thousands arrested.

    ''I have been struck (by)... how open many in Burma have been in contrasting the regime's rapid and in-force response to the events of last year, and their all-too-typical laggardly and underwhelming response to disasters such as this,'' said Sean Turnell, an economist specialising in Burma at Australia's Macquarie University. ''Responding to natural disasters is precisely the sort of thing 'real' armies do well elsewhere, but never in Burma.''

    While the military and other government authorities kept a low profile Monday in Rangoon's storm-battered streets, civilians and Buddhist monks banded together, wielding axes and knives to clear roads of tree trunks and branches torn off by the cyclone's 190kph winds.

    ''Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?'' said one man, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution. ''They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity.''

    Burma's people will likely remember who came out to help them in their time of need. ''If Buddhist monks have mobilised to provide assistance, as often happens in Asian countries, the contrast in response will further work to undermine whatever credibility the junta has left,'' said Ben Wisner, a disaster and urban affairs expert at Oberlin University.

    The need for a massive relief effort poses a dilemma for the junta: how much assistance to accept from abroad. Allowing any major influx of foreigners could carry risks for the military, injecting unwanted outside influence and giving the aid givers rather than the junta credit for a recovery. However, keeping out international aid would focus blame squarely on the military should it fail to restore people's livelihoods.

    The most extreme change could come within the military itself. The cyclone's aftermath, said Mr Turnell, ''may also just present an opportunity for more moderate, rational people in the military to assume greater control''.

    If the relief effort discredits the current leadership, said Josef Silverstein, a Burma expert, younger officers could take the opportunity to make a bid for power.

    ''With the devastating sudden impact of natural disasters, there tends to be a huge anger from the public for the inadequacies of the state to respond to the needs of disaster-affected people,'' noted Dr Alpaslan Ozerdem of the University of York.

    Cases in recent history where disasters helped blaze a trail for reforms include a 1985 earthquake in Mexico that many believe marked the beginning of the end for the long-ruling PRI party; Nicaragua's 1972 earthquake, which led to the decline of the dictator Somoza; and a 1970 cyclone where Pakistan's inadequate relief efforts contributed to the breakaway of the country's east to form Bangladesh. AP

    Bangkok Post

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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    Burma eases cyclone relief access



    Burma has faced international appeals to allow more help


    Burma's military rulers have agreed to allow US military aircraft to fly in emergency aid for victims of Saturday's devastating cyclone.
    The move follows growing international concern over their reluctance to accept help for up to one million homeless.
    The UN says its disaster evaluation team will also be allowed in, but its relief planes still await clearance.
    Burma has put the confirmed death toll at 22,980 but there are fears it could rise to 100,000.
    Cyclone Nargis smashed into the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region on Saturday.

    'Critically needed'
    The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says accepting US aid must be a bitter pill for Burma's generals to swallow.
    They have always been intensely suspicious of outside interference and the US has all but called for regime change in Burma, he says. But the catastrophic impact of last Saturday's cyclone has forced them to swallow their pride.

    US aircraft based in Thailand will now be allowed to fly in emergency supplies
    If other countries are allowed to do the same, our correspondent says, Burma could experience the biggest international presence in its recent history.
    The UN said its four-member disaster assessment and co-ordination team had now been given visas for Burma.
    However, the UN says planes carrying its vital food supplies have still not been given permission to enter.

    Abridged from BBC News.

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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    UN aid flights to Burma under way

    The UN says its first aid flight has now arrived in Burma, bringing much needed relief to up to one million people made homeless by Cyclone Nargis.

    The flights had been delayed because of Burma's reluctance to accept help, causing growing international concern.

    The US says it has not yet been given permission to fly aid into Burma - despite earlier reports that it had.

    Abridged from BBC News.

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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 22,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    As cyclone-struck villagers await aid, anger mounts

    KungRangoon, Burma - Tin Sin, 57, is now a grandmother without grandchildren.
    When Cyclone Nargis hit this coastal town, 45 kilometres south-west of Rangoon, on May 3, it wiped out her hopes of a happy old age surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

    Her son Zaw Nyo Htet, 33, and his wife and three children were all trying to save the rice crop from torrential rains caused by the cyclone when a giant wave inundated the village, drowning them all.

    Tin Sin managed to survive because she was minding the family home. "I am all alone," she wailed. "I have nothing." She is not alone in her misery.

    Tin Oo, 37, lost 16 members of his extended family, two sisters, one brother and their children to Cyclone Nargis, and now he is angry. "They were working in the paddy fields, trying to save the crop," he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "We had no warning that the storm was coming."

    Burma's Department of Meteorology claims to have issued warnings on the approach of the cyclone six days before the storm struck the country, but in remote towns such as KungRangoon, where few can afford a television or even a radio, the warning was not heard.

    The last tropical cyclone to hit Burma occurred 40 years ago, long enough for most to have forgotten the warning signs.

    According to government estimates, almost 23,000 people died in the disaster and another 42,000 have been listed as missing, most of them in the Irrawaddy Delta area, Burma's fertile rice bowl.

    Others predict the real death toll will be closer to 100,000. In KungRangoon alone, villagers estimate 5,000 people died. The catastrophe has left an estimated 1.5 million people without food, water and medicine. Hundreds of thousands are without homes.

    Burma's military regime has reportedly allocated a budget of 4.5 million dollars to emergency relief, peanuts compared with the magnitude of the task ahead.

    Burma Prime Minister General Thein Sein visited KungRangoon on Wednesday, passing out small bags of rice and one or two fish per family.

    Such largess will not be enough to stave off the food crisis looming over KungRangoon and hundreds of other small towns as the people attempt to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

    "All the government has given us is a little rice and fish," said Chit Than, 59, who lost his daughter to the cyclone. "I am angry and will vote no at the referendum on Saturday."

    The disaster has caught the ruling junta at a sensitive time politically.

    The regime is holding a referendum Saturday aimed at winning popular approval for a constitution that promises to cement the military's dominant role in Burma politics.

    Burma has been under military dictatorships since 1962. The current regime has earned itself pariah status among Western democracies for repeatedly crushing anti-government protests and refusing to hasten moves toward democracy.

    Cyclone Nargis, ironically, has forced the regime to open its doors to the international community's emergency aid at a time when it least desires international scrutiny.

    Critics have labelled the referendum process a sham, that will result in an endorsement of the charter either through intimidation or rigged voting.

    Worries about the referendum, which has been postponed until May 24 in 47 of the worst-hit townships, may be behind the junta's tardiness in passing out visas to aid workers trying to enter the country this week to cope with the massive humanitarian challenge.

    Critics of the regime charged that it is deliberately hampering the granting of visas so it can claim the credit for relief work in the countryside.

    "They are delaying visas for foreign aid workers, which is a clear sign that they want the materials but don't want the foreign workers," said Win Min, a lecturer on Burma affairs at Chiang Mai University in Thailand.

    But the enormity of the disaster is likely to force the regime to loosen visa restrictions on aid workers or face the prospect of mounting casualties to hunger and disease.

    "This is a critical moment for Burma's vulnerable populations," warned the UN Information Centre in Rangoon. "In the next few days, assessments must be provided or thousands more could die."

    Government-caused delays to the disaster relief could also lead to political unrest, a prospect some welcome.

    "What is needed is a revolution - but it is unclear that will happen," said one Western diplomat in Rangoon.//dpa

    The Nation

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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 23,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    UNHCR hopes to deliver Burma aid Saturday

    Geneva (dpa) - The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Thursday it hoped to deliver 22 tonnes of relief goods to Burma starting Saturday, a full week after Cyclone Nargis slammed into the the poor country.

    The UNHCR said it will cross the border from Mae Sot.

    UNHCR spokes woman Jennifer Pagonis said in Geneva the delay in getting lorries through was "only a question of logistics" and the organisation hoped the goods would enter Burma Saturday.

    The situation was confirmed by the director of UNHCR's Asia Pacific Bureau, Janet Lim: "We are working closely with the (Burmese) authorities to get our relief supplies into Myanmar by road from Thailand and we are also exploring sending more emergency shelter materials, mainly plastic sheeting and tarpaulins, to Rangoon by air from Dubai."

    UNHCR does not normally deal with natural disasters, but said it had responded to the cyclone because of the scale of the devastation, the urgent needs of the victims, and the proximity of its emergency relief supplies to Burma. UNHCR was part of the joint UN emergency response to the cyclone.

    More than 22,000 people are reported dead and 40,000 missing after Cyclone Nargis struck the country's southern region Friday. An estimated one million people are homeless.

    The UNHCR supplies should provide enough plastic sheets and tents to shelter 10,000 people.

    "It may take time to reach Rangoon, but we will be moving as fast as possible," said Lim.

    Bangkok Post

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    Re: Burma cyclone disaster: 23,000 dead 41,000 missing.

    BURMA DISASTER
    Us begs thais to influence junta
    By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
    Piyanart Srivalo
    The Nation


    Samak unable to contact country's leaders, may fly to Rangoon


    The United States yesterday desperately sought Thailand's help to get into cyclone-ravaged Burma and deliver humanitarian assistance to millions of storm victims in the secretive country.

    US Ambassador Eric John met Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to ask him to facilitate permission from Burmese leaders for the US emergency relief team to enter the country.

    Samak gave some assurance that he and his government would work closely with the US to help Burma, John said.

    However, Samak failed to get through to paramount leader Than Shwe and his deputy Muang Aye due to poor communications, government spokesman Wichianchot Sukchotrat said.

    If contact cannot be made, Samak will fly to Burma soon to talk to the leader, the spokesman said.

    John urged the junta leaders to make a quick decision to let the US disaster team, waiting in Bangkok, get in soon.

    "A visa that we get today is worth a lot more lives than tomorrow and worth a lot of lives than the day after tomorrow," he told a press briefing.

    "If today the visa is delayed, more and more people would be suffering significantly in Burma."

    The US government is ready to provide assistance and through its Agency for International Development offered US$3.25 million (Bt104 million) initial assistance for the relief effort.

    Burmese state media reported that the cyclone killed 22,980 persons and left 42,119 missing. The figures are unconfirmed and could rise.

    "The high number of deaths and missing increases our concerns and our desire to provide assistance to those who need it now," John said.

    Burma's leaders distrust Western countries and are reluctant to allow their personnel in the country.

    John showed the media the team his government would send to Burma.

    "These are humanitarian workers," he said. "They are ready to go in to help. They are not going in to overthrow the government. They are not going in to spy. They have specific skills for immediately responding to disaster. These are the faces and these are the people we want to send in to Burma."

    He dismissed a report that the Thai Supreme Command managed to get landing permission from Burma for US C-130 military aircraft.

    Bill Berger from USAid said Burmese leaders have nothing to fear from the C-130. Although it was a military aircraft, it would be loaded with only items for assistance.

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