Myanmar’s military junta believes at least 10,000 people died in a cyclone that ripped through the Irrawaddy delta, triggering a massive international aid response for the pariah state in southeast Asia.
“The basic message was that they believe the provisional death toll was about 10,000 with 3,000 missing,” a Yangon-based diplomat told Reuters in Bangkok, summarising a briefing from Foreign Minister Nyan Win. “It’s a very serious toll.”
The scale of the disaster from Saturday’s devastating cyclone drew a rare acceptance of outside help from the diplomatically isolated generals, who spurned such approaches in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The secretive military, which has ruled the former Burma for 46 years, has moved even further into the shadows in the last six months due to the widespread outrage at its bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September.
The official toll on state media stands at 3,394 dead and 2,879 missing, although those figures only cover two of the five declared disaster zones, where UN officials say hundreds of thousands are without shelter or drinking water.