Burma cyclone death toll nears 4,000

Figure could reach 10,000
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The Independent Online

The death toll from a devastating cyclone that swept through Burma has risen to almost 4,000, a state radio station said. Nearly 3,000 were unaccounted for in a single town.

The radio station, broadcasting from the country's capital Naypyitaw, said that 2,879 more people are unaccounted for in a single town, Bogalay, in the country's low-lying Irrawaddy River delta area where the storm wreaked the most havoc.

The government had previously put the death toll countrywide from Saturday's Cyclone Nargis at 351 before increasing it today to 3,939. The Burmese foreigh minister Nyan Win also suggested that the death toll could reach 10,000.

The storm has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and without clean drinking water, said Richard Horsey, a spokesman in Bangkok, Thailand for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Yangon, the country's biggest city, was without electricity except where gas-fed generators were available. Many roads remained littered with debris.

Officials from the military government today met with representatives of international aid agencies to discuss providing assistance. Neighboring Thailand announced that it would fly some aid in tomorrow, while the private aid agency World Vision said the Burmese government had invited it "to provide assistance in the form of zinc sheets, tents, tarpaulins and medicine."

"The agency is coordinating with authorities to explore an airlift of emergency supplies into the country from one of its global warehouses," the group said in a news release.

The situation in the countryside remained unclear because of poor communications and roads left impassable by the storm.

"It's clear that we're dealing with a very serious situation. The full extent of the impact and needs will require an extensive on-the-ground assessment," Mr Horsey said. "What is clear at this point is that there are several hundred thousands of people in dire need of shelter and clean drinking water. The U.N. system is making the necessary preparations to provide what is needed."

Meanwhile, the United Nations has said that Burma has accepted international aid offers and "shipments are being prepared at once."