Myanmar death toll 'nears 4,000'
Almost 4,000 people have died and another 3,000 remain missing in Myanmar as a result of this weekend's devastating cyclone, according the state media reported CNN Monday.
The soaring death toll was announced as the reclusive southeast Asian country's ruling military junta issued a rare appeal for international assistance in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis.
The Associated Press reported that resident ambassadors had been summoned to a foreign ministry meeting after a state of emergency was declared across much of the country following the 10-hour storm that left swathes of destruction in its wake.
The government of neghboring Thailand said Myanmar's leaders had already requested food, medical supplies and construction equipment, AP reported. The first plane-load of supplies was due to arrive Tuesday, a Thai spokesman said.
Scenes of the destruction showed flooding, roofs ripped off buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines after cyclone Nargis battered the Irrawaddy delta throughout Friday night and Saturday morning.
"After about noon, the sky cleared and everybody came out and were just stunned," said Shari Villarosa, U.S. Charge D' Affaires in Yangon. "People on my compound who had been there for about 15 years say they had not seen anything like this here, ever."
Residents of Yangon trudged through knee-deep swirling brown waters Monday as the delta city remained mostly without electricity and phone connections. Video Watch the cyclone hammer Yangon "
A spokesman for the Red Cross said the emergency aid group was working with its Myanmar agency to provide drinking water, temporary shelters and blankets and warned that urgent action was needed to limit outbreaks of disease.
"I think one of the biggest needs right now is to stave off disease," said spokesman Eric Porterfield. "We will be helping with the distribution of clean drinking water and setting up shelters."
Relief agencies met at the United Nations' Bangkok headquarters Monday to coordinate their response to the disaster. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had released 200,000 Swiss Francs (about $190,000) to help with the aftermath.
The U.S. aid group World Vision also said it had responded to a government request for assistance.
"The biggest need is getting water for the two million affected people," World Vision spokesman Casey Calamusa told CNN, adding that it was rare for the government to ask for help. The ruling junta under sharp criticism from many nations for using force to suppress pro-democracy protests last year.
A state of emergency was declared Sunday across five regions: the city of Yangon, Irrawaddy, Pegu and the states of Karen and Mon. All flights to Yangon, the former capital, were canceled.
"Most Burmese with whom we've been in touch report they lost their roofs, although so far everyone we have been able to contact reports that they and their families are safe," said a Yangon-based diplomat who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier Monday, an editor for an independent Myanmar newspaper based in Thailand told CNN that people in the Southeast Asian nation were angry over the response to the disaster by the ruling military junta.
"People are very angry with the slow response coming from the military government," said Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy news magazine.
Zaw said communication was down across large areas of the country. He also said the casualty figures could rise.