New storm batters grief-stricken Burma

Torrential rain is lashing down on Burma, adding to the plight of thousands of destitute survivors of Cyclone Nargis. Meanwhile, foreign governments struggle to convince the junta to let foreign aid workers help victims. Alice Beaumont reports.


Watch our Top Story to find out more about hampered efforts to assist the victims of Cyclone Nargis.


Torrential tropical downpours lashed Burma's Irrawaddy delta on Friday, deepening the misery of an estimated 2.5 million homeless survivors of Cyclone Nargis and further hampering the military government's aid efforts.


Despite the latest storm, which is likely to turn already damaged roads to mud in the swamp-covered region, the country’s ruling generals insist their relief operations are running smoothly.


But FRANCE 24’s correspondent Cyril Payen, reporting from the BurmaThailand border, says “A lot of districts in the delta have received absolutely no help.” The damage in certain areas has yet to be ascertained, he reports, as helicopters have not flown over certain areas.


“Absolutely inflexible”


“The stance of the government on foreign aid is absolutely inflexible,” reports our correspondent, “they are not letting foreign workers into Burma.”


Suspicious of outside influence, the military junta is maintaining a blackout on worst-hit Irrawaddy delta. “It’s a region where only local aid workers – not foreign workers – are allowed to go,” according to  FRANCE 24’s special envoy in Burma Alice Beaumont.


On his second day to the cyclone-hit country, EU aid chief Louis Michel also said he is still waiting for permission to visit Myanmar's cyclone disaster zone. "I requested to go into the delta but was not allowed to enter yesterday. I am still hoping to go today," Michel said.


Likewise, France has also dispatched a navy helicopter carrier loaded with 1,000 tonnes of emergency supplies - enough to provide 100,000 people with food and clean drinking water for two weeks. According to Beaumont, the carrier should be arriving soon but “had not yet received the go-ahead to enter Burmese waters.”


Death tolls climb as disease threatens  


While Burma’s state television raised its official death toll on Friday to 77,738, Payen reports that aid workers inside Burma say up to 200,000 people are either dead or missing in the aftermath of May 2 Cyclone Nargis.


Health workers say the clock is ticking for the survivors as cases of the infectious and potentially deadly disease cholera have been reported in some areas of Burma. A water-borne bacterial disease, cholera would be especially dangerous for populations in the flooded areas of Burma’s coast. The United Nations has also reported that 20 percent of children were suffering from diarrhea in the delta area.


Launching an appeal for the survivors of the cyclone, the Red Cross said on Friday that the harvest had already been lost in the cyclone-hit areas of Burma. "We are certainly going to see a further aggravation of the situation, further destitution among an already very hard-hit population," said Red Cross director of programmes and coordination, Thomas Gurtner.

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