Myanmar cyclone report to be presented in Singapore

Results of an assessment of the damage wrought by Cyclone Nargis on Myanmar will be presented next month at an Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meeting in Singapore, a tripartite assessment team announced Tuesday.
A 350 member tripartite team from ASEAN, the United Nations, Myanmar government with advisors form the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have finished collecting data for a "credible and independent" assessment of the damage wrought by Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar's central coast on May 2-3.
The assesment report "will be submitted to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Singapore on July 20-21," said a statement issued by the Tripartite Core Group, representing the joint effort, at a press conference in Yangon.
"This will allow donors to fulfil their pledge commitments to the cyclone victims and help in recovery and reconstruction," it added.
Based on the data collected, the UN is expected to issue a revised Humanitarian Appeal from Geneva later in July.
Meanwhile, Myanmar's junta revised the official estimate of the dead and missing from the catastrophe up to 138,373 people.
The government's previous estimate for the dead and missing was slightly below 134,000, comprising about 78,000 dead and 56,000 missing, most of them drowned or swept away by the tidal waves that accompanied the cyclone.
The cyclone's official death toll now stands at 84,537 with 53,836 missing and about 20,000 injured, Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu said.
Kyaw Thu announced the new estimates at the first meeting in Yangon of an the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment team, which returned to Yangon over the weekend after completing data collection in 380 cyclone-affected villages across Yangon and the Irrawaddy Delta.
The team used 10 helicopters provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) to visit the villages and collect data. The helicopters, initally meant for emergency relief operations, were used by the joint team between June 11-20.
The joint team was initiated after the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference May 25 in Yangon to raise relief and recovery aid for the cyclone's victims.
The initiative, the first such for 10-member ASEAN, was seen as a means of getting around the distrust Myanmar's military junta feels for Western democracies by allowing ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, to play an intermediate role and provide a "diplomatic umbrella" in assessing the damage done by the cyclone.
The junta was sharply criticized by the international community for hindering an international disaster relief effort for their own people by restricting imports of necessities and foreign experts skilled in facilitating emergency operations.
All visas for foreign aid experts is now being handled by the Tripartite Core Group, comprising three representatives from ASEAN, the UN and Myanmar ministries.
The junta's interference has already slowed international contributions to the UN's first "flash appeal" for aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and is likely to put a damper on more expensive rehabilitation plans that the joint team's assessment is designed to facilitate, aid workers said.
So far only about 60 per cent of the UN's initial flash appeal has been met by donors and there are worries that funding will dry up, stranding the WFP helicopters by early July, WFP sources said, reported dpa.

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