Myanmar cyclone toll could be more than 100,000: UN

May 10th, 2008 - 4:28 am ICT by admin  

New York, May 10 (DPA) The UN Friday estimated the death toll could reach more than 100,000 in Myanmar, a dramatic increase in the estimate of devastation caused by the cyclone Nargis in the country’s low-lying delta region. The UN dropped its reliance on the military government’s casualty figures for the first time this week, saying that Nargis could be the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 138,000 were killed in Bangladesh.

“Based on assessment of 18 agencies and their assessment in 55 townships, we estimate currently that the number of severely affected population lies between 1.2 and 1.9 million,” said John Holmes, the UN undersecretary general for emergency relief efforts.

An estimated 13 million people of Myanmar’s population of 53 million live in areas hit by the cyclone.

“The number of deaths has been climbing daily and could be anywhere between 63,000 and 100,000 or possibly even higher than that,” Holmes told government envoys assembled to pledge help to Myanmar.

By contrast, Myanmar’s UN Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe, who attended the pledging conference, said there were 22,997 dead as of Thursday, 1,403 injured and 42,119 missing people. He gave the number of affected people at “hundreds of thousands,” a much lower figure than what Holmes cited.

“We are most thankful to the international community, our friends near and far for the solidarity and generosity,” Kyaw said. “We urgently need medical supplies, food, clothing, electric generators and material for emergency shelter as well as financial assistance. Therefore today’s flash appeal is both timely and welcome.”

Kyaw said Myanmar had received so far two shiploads and 11 aircraft loaded with relief supplies.

“I hope today’s appeal will be met with concrete expression of solidarity and generosity by the international community,” he said.

Holmes said he received pledges of $77 million out of the total of $187 million that asked for to fund international relief efforts. Yet the military government has yet to authorize the unhindered delivery of relief goods to the victims threatened by famine, diseases and flooding.

He said the $77-million pledge did not include money or in-kinds directly given to the Myanmar government from organizations or governments. The top donors so far have been Japan, Britain and the United States.

The amount sought should cover three months of most essential needs, including plastic sheeting, water purification, materials, water receptacles, cooking sets, mosquito nets, emergency health kits and food, the UN said in a comprehensive study of the emergency relief needs that was put together by UN agencies and organizations involved in the relief efforts.

The amount will be revised regularly to reflect the actual needs of people living in areas destroyed by Nargis, which hit the vast delta region in southern Myanmar and former capital Yangon last weekend.

The appeal was made to UN members with a warning of current difficulties to gain access to the affected areas, the delivery of relief goods and the degrees of uncertainty on the ground in Myanmar.

The $187 million should enable 10 UN organizations and nine non-governmental organizations to support the government’s efforts to assist the 1.5 million affected people, the UN said.

Governments attending the pledging session urged Myanmar to allow relief goods and workers to enter the country to begin their tasks of helping those in needs.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the UN should reinforce immediately its relief activities before the death toll would climb higher. He said a US warship is off the Gulf of Thailand with 23 helicopters that could be used to ferry aid to Myanmar in addition to the initial donation of $5 million.

“We are prepared to do more and we urge the Myanmar government to immediately give access to the UN and the entry to all humanitarian personnel regardless of their nationalities,” Khalilzad said.

Japan pledged another $10 million while some other Asian nations like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines pledged between $200,000 and $1 million.

Related Stories

    Posted in Uncategorized |