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Powerful Burma Cyclone Kills 22,000+ PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 May 2008 11:19

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok

Published: May 5 2008 13:29

Destroyed fishing boats lay in the port of Yangon after cylone Nargis

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok

The death toll from the powerful cyclone that battered Burma rose above 22,000 on Tuesday ? with another 30,000 still feared missing, as the international community mobilised water supplies, food, and shelter for the estimated 1m survivors.

With the magnitude of the disaster growing more apparent, the regime on Tuesday decided to postpone a vote on a new constitution in the parts of the country that were ravaged by tropical cyclone Nargis, which smacked into the country on Saturday.

State television reported that voting on the military-sponsored constitution ? which the regime says will lay the foundation for a ?disciplined democracy ? would be delayed in Rangoon, the largest city, and the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta until May 24.

However, it said the referendum on the charter ? which has been slammed by critics as merely a tool to legitimise military rule ? would go ahead as scheduled on May 10 in parts of the country unaffected by the catastrophe.

Meanwhile ? with the junta under fire from the Bush White House for its response to the disaster, Kyaw Hsan, the information minister, defended the military?s reaction, saying that the government was ?doing its best? to help the victims.

?The task is very wide and extensive and the government needs the cooperation of the people and well-wishers from at home and abroad,? the minister said in a rare news conference in Rangoon, which has not had electricity since the storm struck, and where food and water are running short.

?We will not hide anything,? he said. ?Please ask the people not to be duped by rumours or fabrication.?

Nargis, which packed winds of around 190km per hour, is the worst cyclone to strike Asia since a 1991 storm killed 143,000 in Bangladesh. Burmese authorities have said that at least 10,000 are thought to have died in a single town, Bogolay.

UN officials believe that the toll from the storm?s fierce winds and powerful storm surges will rise further in the coming days, as authorities make contact with low-lying coastal areas, many of which are now still submerged under water.

?The death toll is going to continue to rise, probably significantly, over the 15,000 we have at the moment,? said Richard Horsey, a spokesman with the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

?People just haven?t been able to get access to these towns and villages,? Mr Horsey said. ?But what?s clear is that this is a major humanitarian situation by any standards?We are talking about 1m plus affected, and in need of immediate assistance.

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