Yangon, May 7: The death toll from the devastating cyclone that hit Myanmar last week has soared above 22,000 and over 41,000 others are missing. According to Myanmar state radio 22,464 people have now been confirmed dead from Cyclone Nargis, a Category 3 storm packing winds of 190 km (120 mile) per hour, ripped through Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta on Saturday.
In the cyclone's aftermath, state radio reported that the government was delaying a constitutional referendum in areas hit hardest. The May 10 voting on a military-backed draft constitution would be delayed until May 24, in 40 of 45 townships in the Yangon area and seven in the Irrawaddy delta, the radio said. Besides two Naval ships-- INS Rana and INS Kirpan, India is also sending two Air Force aircrafts carrying tents and medical supplies that will reach Yangon today.
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. 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.
In Yangon, many roofs were ripped off even sturdy buildings, suggesting the severe damage in the shanty towns that lie on the outskirts of the city of five million people. Shunned by the West for its detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and dismal human rights record, Myanmar has been the target of Western sanctions for years.