New Delhi, May 6: Cyclone Nargis has wrecked atleast a quarter of Myanmar. The death toll has risen above 22,000 on Tuesday as the international community prepared to rush in aid.
A news broadcast on government-run radio said that 22,464 people have now been confirmed dead from Cyclone Nargis, which tore through the country's rice bowl and biggest city of Yangon early on Saturday. The broadcast added that thousands more are missing. Relief efforts for the stricken area, mostly in the low-lying Irrawaddy River delta, have been difficult, in large part because of the destruction of roads and communications outlets by the storm.
Food shortages are being reported from different areas and Yangon is in the grip of a severe water crisis with many being forced to turn to the only source of water in the city – the Royal Lake.
Authorities said the water scarcity is because the city"s electric supply has been snapped. Government-supplied water and most private tubewells have also stopped operating in the city.
The UN World Food Program, which was preparing to fly in food supplies, offered a grim assessment of the destruction – up to a million people possibly homeless, some villages almost totally destroyed and vast rice-growing areas wiped out.
Based on a satellite map made available by the UN, the storm's damage was concentrated over about a 11,600-square-mile (30,000-square-kilometer) area along the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Martaban coastlines, which is less than 5 per cent of the country.
But the affected region is home to nearly a quarter of Myanmar's 57 million people.
As international aid begins to pour in, soldiers and police appear more the exception than the rule, but the official media has given prominence to the military response prompting many to view footage of residents being helped as nothing but state propaganda.