100,000 May Have Died in Myanmar Cyclone, U.S. Says

Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)
Associated Press
May 7, 2008

Bodies floated in floodwaters, and survivors tried to reach dry ground on boats using blankets as sails, while the top U.S. diplomat in Myanmar said Wednesday that up to a hundred thousand people may have died in the devastating cyclone.

Hungry crowds stormed the few shops that opened in the country's stricken Irrawaddy River Delta, sparking fistfights, according to Paul Risley, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme in neighboring Thailand.

Shari Villarosa, who heads the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, said food and water are running short in the delta area and called the situation there "increasingly horrendous.

"There is a very real risk of disease outbreaks as long as this continues," Villarosa told reporters.

State media in Myanmar, also known as Burma, reported that nearly 23,000 people died when Cyclone Nargis blasted the country's western coast on Saturday. More than 42,000 others were reported missing.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said Thursday that the cyclone's death toll may rise "very significantly."

(See photos of the cyclone damage and watch video.)

"Cyclone" is the name given to a hurricane when it occurs in the northern Indian Ocean or, as is the case with Cyclone Nargis, the Bay of Bengal (see map). (Get the basics on hurricanes/cyclones.)

Struggling to Help

The military junta normally restricts the access of foreign officials and organizations to the country, and aid groups were struggling to deliver relief goods.

Internal UN documents obtained by the Associated Press showed growing frustrations at foot-dragging by the junta, which has kept the impoverished nation isolated for five decades.

"Visas are still a problem. It is not clear when it will be sorted out," according to the minutes of a meeting of the UN task force coordinating relief for Myanmar in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday.

Continued on Next Page >>



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