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Red Cross Warns of Further Misery for Burma's Cyclone Victims


The International Red Cross says heavy rains will bring new misery to survivors of the cyclone in Burma's Irrawaddy Delta region. Ron Corben has this report from Bangkok.

Officials with International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies fear rain during the next few days will worsen conditions for tens of thousands of people made homeless by Cyclone Nargis.

Red Cross officials in Bangkok said the seasonal rains will bring new floods and complicate relief efforts.

The United Nations and aid organizations fear more than 120,000 people perished in the storm, which came ashore May 2. Now 2.5 million people are in urgent need of water, food, shelter and medical assistance.

A Red Cross coordinator in Thailand, Joanna Maclean, says international relief workers need more access to the region. She warns that Burmese relief workers and volunteers will soon be exhausted from the effort to help storm victims.

"Of course those working, they are going to be burnt out very quickly and this is a long-term effort," she said. "If there can be additional support either from the region from outside or with additional people brought in - to work with the Myanmar Red Cross and with the International Federation - then that absolutely has to happen."

Relief efforts are slowly being stepped up. But Burma's military government has been reluctant to allow international aid workers into the country to direct the effort. Some aid experts and storm survivors say only a small number of victims have received help.

Burma's government has come under intense international pressure to allow in aid. The senior U.N. relief expert is headed to Burma to discuss relief efforts.

Despite the warnings of aid agencies, Burmese officials told Thailand's prime minister they do not need international aid workers and say there have not been widespread hunger or disease among the survivors.

Meanwhile, Burma's government says 92 percent of voters approved a new constitution in a referendum held Saturday in areas that were less affected by the storm. International rights activists criticized the government for going ahead with the vote, given the storm damage.

The government says the new constitution is another step in its path to democracy. But the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, and other rights groups condemn the draft constitution, which they say will only keep the military in power.

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