It's been five days since Cyclone Nargis devastated large part of Burma, but the death tole continues to rise. At first, the headlines said hundreds were feared dead, then thousands, and yesterday the top U.S. diplomat in Burma said as many as 100,000 people may have died. Here's more:
After five days, the focus has turned from searching for the dead to caring for the living. The urgent need for food and water in affected areas has already prompted foreign governments and NGO's to committ about 30 million dollars in aid to deal with the immediate crisis.
But the cyclone has also caused long-term damage to rice paddies and infrastructure. And disease now threatens many survivors not yet reached by aid.
Meanwhile, criticism has grown over the handling of the disaster, mainly because of the Junta's delay in granting visas to foreign aid workers and journalists.
[Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State]:
"This is not a matter of politics. This is a matter of a humanitarian crisis, and it should be a matter that the government of Burma wants to see its people receive the help that is available to them."
But politics have made their way into the debate. Burma has been criticized for going ahead with a constitutional referendum scheduled for May 10th. In a related story, U.S. President Bush signed legislation on Tuesday awarding detained Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal.
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