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Official death toll in Myanmar cyclone increased to 84,500

SHARE Official death toll in Myanmar cyclone increased to 84,500

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar said Tuesday that 84,500 people perished in last month's cyclone, up from its last announcement that 77,700 had died in the devastating storm that drew international pleas for the insular government to accept outside help.

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

Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu said in a speech that the official death toll now stood 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.

"On the part of the government, there have been less and less 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."

Foreign aid staffers, initially barred from the hardest-hit Irrawaddy river delta region, have not yet produced their own estimates of the dead and missing, some of them citing lack of access, personnel and the difficulty of traveling to many remote areas.

Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3 cut a swath of destruction through the delta and the region around the country's largest city, Yangon.

A major international effort is under way to aid some 2.4 million survivors of the natural disaster, the worst in Myanmar's modern history.

This includes a special three-party task force that has completed an assessment of the damage and needs of survivors. A final report on its findings is due around the third week of July.

The report is widely expected to put an optimistic light on the crisis, while presenting some criticism of the regime for hindering the international aid effort.

Some 300 representatives of the United Nations, the Myanmar government and ASEAN have been traveling to villages in the delta to accumulate information.

"Access was unlimited and unfettered. The basics 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 Myanmar, said at a meeting Tuesday.

After an international outcry over the ruling junta's sluggish response to the disaster, the government later promised visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon it would open the delta area to foreign aid workers.

The latest United Nations report said Tuesday that to date 1.3 million people are estimated to have been reached by international aid groups, the Red Cross and U.N. workers.