A devastating cyclone strikes Myanmar, killing nearly 4,000 people and leaving thousands more missing. The military junta has indicated it is ready to receive international aid.
Local residents clear up roads following cyclone Nargis in Yangon
The state media says an estimated 4,000 people have been killed by the cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar at the weekend. But the number of casualties is expected to rise further, as many more are missing.
Hundreds of thousands people have lost their homes in Myanmar after the cyclone hit it with winds up to 190 kilometres. According to the United Nations the low lying Irrawaddy delta has been hit extremely hard by the storm. Official sources say seventy-five percent of the buildings in the area have either collapsed or are seriously damaged. The military government has declared five regions as disaster zones -- including the former capital Yangon, the Irrawaddy region, Bago, Mon and Karen.
Terje Skavdal, a co-ordinator of the United Nations humanitarian aid in Southeast Asia says: "As always it's the poorest who are hardest hit because their structures are not that solid as other buildings."
Poor disaster management
It's difficult to assess the full extent of damages as most roads into the hardest hit Irrawaddy region are still blocked. Phone and internet connections have broken down, too. Myanmar's military authorities have given the United Nations permission to send emergency aid. However, relief organisations only have limited access to the military ruled country and need special permits to leave Yangon. But UN’s Terje Skavdal is confident that the junta will accept foreign help: "The traditional Myanmar position is not to plead for aid but they probably might welcome aid."
Meanwhile Thailand has responded to the disaster by sending a C-130 transport plane loaded with food and medicine to Yangon after the airport reopened on Monday, Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said. Red Cross workers have been deployed on the ground to evaluate the disaster and to distribute food, clothes, drinking water and tents to victims.
Despite the disaster and the mounting number of casualties, the junta is determined to go ahead with its controversial referendum on a new constitution due on May 10.