05/06/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Cyclone Nargis, “cautious” junta agreement to UN aid

According to the state TV the death toll exceeds 15 thousand, with a further 30 thousand missing. The scale of the disaster force the generals out of isolation. Aid arrives from ASEAN neighbours as well as the EU and USA, the latter specifying: we will check that the funds are spent correctly.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The official death toll from May 3rd cyclone Nagris which hit Myanmar is over 15 thousand people.  According to state TV, in the city of Bogalay alone the body count numbers 10 thousand people, while the foreign minister Nyan Win reports 30 thousand missing and countless more homeless.  The scale of the disaster, the worst to rock the region since the 2004 tsunami, has forced the military junta to accept offers of international aid, usually viewed with deep suspicion. A move which points to a far more dramatic final death count.

Yesterday evening the World Food Programme (WFP), explains the UN spokesman Paul Risely, received “cautious” agreement form Burmese leaders to start the shipment of aid.  A squadron of UN experts is set to leave for the country, if requested, to help the government organise humanitarian relief.  Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general (Association of South East Asian Nations), has asked member states to offer Myanmar “urgent assistance”.  According to Associated Press, the Bangkok government has already received a request from the Naypydaw generals for “food, medicine and building materials”. The first cargo plane from Thailand baring aid should arrive this morning.  The International Federation of the Red Cross – Red Crescent have already allocated 190 thousand dollars for the emergency.  The White House along with the European Union have announced their intention to help relief efforts.  Washington however has underlined that it will take measures to avoid that funds are misappropriated by the Burmese Military Junta, which ahs guaranteed that despite the tragedy the May 10th constitutional referendum will take place.

The category 3 tropical storm, which Saturday hit the southern coast of former Burma with winds reaching up to 190 kilometres per hour, swept away entire villages and left the region without electricity and running water; in 5 regions a state of emergency has been declared:  the cities of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the Karen and Mon states. Inhabitants condemn the behaviour of the military government, who in full knowledge that the storm was about to hit the nation, gave no prior warning which could have served to put sufficient security measures in place.

 

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