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Cyclone death toll reported at 84,500, Burma's junta says

Survivors' needs being met, group's survey indicates

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Associated Press / June 25, 2008

RANGOON, Burma - The government said 84,500 people perished in last month's cyclone, up from the last official announcement that 77,700 had died in the devastating storm.

Meanwhile, a representative from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the regional bloc that includes Burma, said a recent assessment tour found the needs of storm survivors were being met.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu said in a speech yesterday that the official death toll now stands at 84,537 dead, with 53,836 still missing. The update was the first since May 17, when officials said 77,738 had died and 55,917 were missing.

The increased total represents victims of the storm itself rather then any new casualties due to disease or starvation in the cyclone's aftermath, he said, stating that the assessment found no such post-cyclone deaths.

"There have been fewer and fewer requests for emergency assistance coming from communities and local authorities," he added. "Various reports indicate that the worst of the crisis may have stabilized, although it is by no means over."

The casualty toll accords roughly with an estimate made last month by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Cyclone Nargis cut a swath of destruction through the delta and the region around the country's largest city, Rangoon, early last month.

A major international effort is underway to aid some 2.4 million people affected by the storm, the worst natural disaster in Burma's modern history.

A special task force has completed an assessment of the damage and the needs of survivors. A final report on its findings is due next month.

Some 350 representatives of the United Nations, Burma's government, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, have been traveling to villages in the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta to gather information.

"Access was unlimited and unfettered. The basic needs of the victims are being met for their early recovery," Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary-general and head of the bloc's humanitarian task force in Burma, said yesterday in Rangoon.

Preliminary findings by the so-called Tripartite Core Group indicated that 45 percent of those affected are receiving food through humanitarian distribution, according to people who attended a survey presentation.

The findings also indicated that 42 percent of all food stocks were destroyed in the 380 affected villages that were surveyed.

The data indicated more than 83 percent of those people surveyed were now living in their own homes. Many people took shelter at Buddhist temples and government-run refugee camps immediately after the cyclone.

More than 90 percent of those surveyed said they still required assistance to rebuild.

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