There are mounting concerns for victims of the recent cyclone in Myanmar as the country’s military rulers say they will accept foreign aid, but not overseas rescue teams. The Foreign Ministry has said it is giving priority to receiving and distributing supplies with its own resources.
Official figures put the death toll at nearly 23,000, but experts fear it could be as high as 100,000 as tens of thousands of people remain unaccounted for. Extreme hardship could also claim more lives. The UN estimates that at least 1.5 million people are “severely affected”, needing food and shelter. Wells, grain stores and rice fields have been ruined by saltwater.
The Myanmar leadership has been coming under increasing pressure to cooperate with the international community. Western aid experts in Bangkok will have to wait at least four more days to get into Myanmar as its embassy in the Thai capital is on holiday. Planes loaded with relief supplies have been arriving in the country, but the distribution has been slow.
Amid the devastation, the government is pushing ahead with plans for a referendum on an army-drafted constitution tomorrow, airing a video encouraging people to vote.