MAY 9 2008



THE death toll in cyclone-ravaged Burma could hit 500,000 more than TWICE the total killed by the Boxing Day Tsunami.

Last night’s warning came as it emerged that 17 Britons, including ex-pats and backpackers, were still missing.


The UN World Food Programme said on Friday it would resume aid flights, despite the military government’s seizure of deliveries at Yangon airport.


"The World Food Programme has decided to send in two relief flights as planned tomorrow, while discussions continue with the government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in today, and not released to WFP", said Nancy E. Roman, WFP’s communications and public policy director.


The UN food agency had previously said it would suspend aid flights over the seizure today.


The shipments of 38 tonnes of high-energy biscuits, enough to feed 95,000 people, were intended to be loaded on trucks and sent to the inundated Irrawaddy delta where most of the estimated 1.5 million victims of Cyclone Nargis need food, water and shelter.


Sources said 200,000 people were already dead or dying.


But the figure could rise to HALF A MILLION through disease and hunger if the nation’s hardline army rulers continue to block aid for the devastated lowlands of the Irrawaddy Delta.


That would dwarf the 230,000 deaths across South East Asia in the 2004 catastrophe.


Nyo Ohn Myint, of exiled opposition party The National League for Democracy, told The Sun at a border crisis centre: “Much of this will be a man-made disaster, caused by the military regime.


“The bodies need to be collected and burnt as soon as possible or disease will claim many more lives. But the government has organised nothing and its 400,000 soldiers are doing nothing while undistributed aid piles up.


“They are hoping bodies will be washed out to sea so the final count is smaller but it could kill half a million people within a matter of weeks. The world must know what is going on.”


Disaster struck on Saturday when 120mph Cyclone Nargis forced ashore waves up to 20ft high. The Irrawaddy town of Labutta – population 80,000 – was wiped off the map.


Local doctor Aye Kyu told how families clung to trees as their homes were swept away.


He said: “I asked survivors how many there were left. They said about 200.”


A spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid said: “The entire lower delta region is under water.

Teams are talking about bodies floating around. This is a major, major disaster.”


The UN World Food Programme said up to a million may have been left homeless in the vital “rice bowl” farming region alone.

In the city of Bogalay, 95 per cent of homes are thought to have been destroyed.


In the township of Dedaye, south of the main city Rangoon, desperate kids scavenged among the debris of their homes for anything useful to survival.


On the outskirts of Rangoon forlorn families, including a mother cradling her screaming baby, queued for emergency handouts of rice.

In Britain, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander told MPs the situation was “grave”.


The UK has so far pledged more aid than anyone, announcing a £5million package to be channelled through the UN.


Charities Save the Children, Oxfam and the British Red Cross have also swung into action.


But most of the aid is yet to be distributed because of the secretive Burmese junta, led by ruthless General Than Shwe.


His isolationist regime is paranoid an influx of foreigners might have a political impact on a national referendum due tomorrow, set to strengthen the army’s grip still further.


Just four of the air force’s 80 helicopters have been used to move food, water and medical shipments.


Meanwhile, many desperately needed supplies remain in neighbouring countries awaiting clearance, along with aid workers denied visas.

Aid packages which have made it to Rangoon Airport were still on the tarmac.


There were fears that some could be stolen and sold on by corrupt officials.


Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, insisted: “We can’t wait for them any more.


“The Security Council must pass a resolution for aid delivery now.


“We need to see the British, French and US navies begin delivering assistance. Every extra day lost is causing the deaths of yet more innocent victims.”


The Burmese embassy in London claimed aid workers were not being allowed in because of fears for their safety.


An official said: “The Irrawaddy Delta region is hard to travel at the best of times.


 Once it is safe, we want more in the country as soon as possible.”





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