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22 000 dead in Burma cyclone, toll could rise -

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22 000 dead in Burma cyclone, toll could rise further

Broadcast: 07/05/2008

Reporter: Karen Percy

With the death toll from the weekend's cyclone in Burma now officially more than 22 000 the Burmese
Government has finally agreed to allow foreign aid agencies into the country to help provide
relief.

Transcript

TONY JONES: With the death toll from the weekend's cyclone in Burma now officially more than
22,000, the Burmese Government has finally agreed to allow foreign aid agencies into the country to
help provide relief.

But while some agencies have been granted limited access, the military junta has just announced
that any foreign organisations will have to negotiate for visas to enter the strictly controlled
country.

This latest sticking point will certainly add to criticism of the military's slow response to the
disaster, from both Burmese and foreigners.

South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: It's been three days since cyclone Nargis hit Burma's southern coast but only now is
the horror being revealed. As information slowly trickles out, the scale of the devastation is
staggering.

In the town of Bogalay alone in the Irrawaddy delta, the death toll is believed to be more than
10,000.

JENS ORBACK, WITNESS: Heard the big bangs and then I looked out on the balcony, I couldn't stand
there but I saw things coming down from the roofs, trees were falling that have stand there for
long time and in our hotel the ceiling came in with glass and the lights and they turned black.

KAREN PERCY: People are managing the best they can as they wait for help to arrive. The
international Red Cross is on the ground in some parts of the country and other aid agencies are on
their way with food and other supplies.

TIM COSTELLO, WORLD VISION: The fact that the Burmese Government have said "help", when usually
they say, "No, this is our country, stay out" is very significant.

KAREN PERCY: But not everyone is welcome, particularly the United States which is one of the
junta's harshest critics.

LAURA BUSH, US FIRST LADY: I'm worried that they won't even accept US aid and I urge the Government
to accept aid from the United States and from the entire international community right now while
the needs of their people are so critical.

KAREN PERCY: If the need is acute now, aid groups expect it will only get worse.

BAN KI-MOON, UN SECRETARY GENERAL: Because of the lack of communications and the information, we
are not quite sure what would be the total extent of damages and the casualties and, but I am very
much alarmed by the incoming news that the casualties have risen more than 10,000 people already.

KAREN PERCY: The Prime Minister of Burma, who is rarely seen with the people, has been seen in
public for a third day. The junta is desperate to contain any ill feeling about its handling of the
crisis. There have been complaints that the soldiers have left the clean up to the monks and the
people.

SOE AUNG, BURMESE ACTIVIST: Where are they now? That's the question people are asking about. They
are always ready to beaten up, harass and intimidate the democracy campaigners and activists but
they are not in any sight where they are helping the people.

KAREN PERCY: Burmese activists based in Thailand have slammed the junta for pushing ahead with the
weekend's constitutional referendum.

SOE AUNG: Why are this government, instead of helping those affected by the cyclone and trying to
push ahead with this constitution which is not going to address the well being of the people?

KAREN PERCY: The junta has announced that it will delay the vote in the hardest hit regions, even
still the critics are talking about the possibility of another uprising by the people like that
seen last year when the junta failed to respond to economic concerns.

Karen Percy, Lateline.