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Red Cross Says as Many as 2.5 Million Affected by Burma Cyclone


The Red Cross says Cyclone Nargis may have affected as many as 2.5 million people in Burma, and international groups say the death toll could end up being more than 100,000.

Burma raised its official death toll Wednesday to 38,000, as weather organizations predicted more heavy rain that could make flooding in the country's agricultural belt even worse. The cyclone hit almost two weeks ago, devastating Burma's Irrawaddy delta.

The United Nations says lack of emergency aid could contribute to famine and disease that would send the death toll even higher.

In New York Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters the reclusive Burmese government has shown some flexibility in allowing aid into the country. But he added it is "far too short."

In Washington Wednesday, the U.S. director of foreign assistance Henrietta Fore told reporters she met with Burmese officials this week as the United States delivered its first planeload of emergency supplies. She said the officials showed her team on a map where conditions are the worst and said the people there most need clean water, followed by food and shelter.

The administrator said her agency is aware of reports that the Burmese military government may be confiscating donated supplies but she added that the need in Burma is so great that they are willing to take some risks to get help to those who need it.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Wednesday that Burmese officials have assured him there are no outbreaks of disease or famine among the cyclone survivors. Mr. Samak said Burmese authorities say they have set up relief facilities for up to 600,000 refugees, and they assured him they do not need foreign experts to help distribute supplies.

However, Burma's military government has accepted Thailand's offer to send a medical team into the country. Thai public health officials say a team of 30 doctors and psychiatrists is scheduled to go to Burma on Friday on a two-week mission.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.