Myanmar Cyclone's Devastation Rivals Tsunami

IN DEPTH

Learn more about Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and its government

Locals make their way past a fallen tree following a devastating cyclone, in Ya i i

Locals make their way past a fallen tree in Yangon, Myanmar, one day after a devastating cyclone hit the area Saturday. The death toll has continued to rise since then. hide caption

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Locals make their way past a fallen tree following a devastating cyclone, in Ya

Locals make their way past a fallen tree in Yangon, Myanmar, one day after a devastating cyclone hit the area Saturday. The death toll has continued to rise since then.

World Vision, one of the few aid agencies with people working in Myanmar, has offered a few hints at the aftermath of a deadly cyclone there, describing piles of bodies and a massive rice-growing region devastated.

Myanmar officials said Tuesday that at least 22,000 people are dead and hundreds of thousands are homeless after the storm hit Saturday.

The nation formerly known as Burma has suffered much more from the cyclone than it did from the tsunami a few years ago, when it was spared the full force of the giant waves that killed hundreds of thousands elsewhere.

NPR's Michael Sullivan, who is tracking the story from Bangkok, tells Steve Inskeep that teams are still on the ground assessing the damage.

"We just don't have any clear indication yet about what the real situation is, but we know of course that it's dire for many people," Sullivan says. He is reporting from Bangkok because Myanmar's secretive military government — which had planned a controversial vote on a new constitution May 10 — has not let any journalists into the country yet.

The very low-lying landscape of Myanmar was inundated by a 12-foot wall of water generated by the cyclone, Sullivan says. Burmese officials in the capital Tuesday said that wave, not the cyclone itself, caused most of the casualties in villages near or along the ocean, Sullivan says.

Aid agencies have offered to help, and the government has reportedly accepted the offers, but there are no reports of aid agencies getting new people into the country, or receiving shipments of food, water or portable shelter, Sullivan says. They have been transporting what they already had in country.

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