Details Emerge in Myanmar About Weather Warning

The cyclone that struck Myanmar last Saturday killed at least 22,000 people. Forecasters saw the storm coming, and Myanmar's military government spread warnings, but the warnings went out via television — which didn't help much in a country with spotty electricity.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Days after a tropical cyclone, we're getting some clues why it may have killed so many people in Myanmar. Forecasters saw this storm coming. Myanmar's military government spread warnings, but the warnings went out by television, which didn't help much in a country with spotty electric power. We're also getting some clues as to how Myanmar's government is responding to this crisis. This is a secretive government, and it is welcoming supplies from the outside world, so long as they're not accompanied by people. Foreign aid workers are not getting in. That's what MORNING EDITION heard today from Suhail Rige(ph) of Doctors Without Borders in Myanmar.

Mr. SUHAIL RIGE (Doctors Without Borders): People didn't have meals since two days, so they're receiving local support from business men, but it's not enough for them for the next few days. So that's why we need to urgently distribute some food and to give to these people clean water.

INSKEEP: Rige is one of many foreign aid workers urging the government to allow outsiders to bring their skills to a devastated river delta.

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Myanmar Appeals for Global Aid as Death Toll Rises

IN DEPTH

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

Myanmar's military government is struggling to cope with a devastating cyclone that hit Saturday. Officials said Tuesday that at least 22,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands are homeless.

Unlike after the tsunami a few years ago, Myanmar's reclusive government has appealed for help from international aid agencies as food and water run short — although there are no reports yet of new aid being allowed in.

"We have to welcome the fact that they've said that they need international aid," James East, World Vision communications director for the Asia-Pacific region, tells Steve Inskeep. "That's a change. I would like to think it's an opportunity for engagement."

President Bush said Tuesday that U.S. aid was already making its way to the stricken country.

"The United States has made an initial aid contribution, but we want to do a lot more. We're prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing and to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country."

East says there are reports of piles of bodies in the hardest-hit areas. And in eight townships in a low-lying river delta, 95 percent of the homes had severe damage — which amounts to 2 million people, he says.

World Vision has hundreds of people working in Myanmar, where access is strictly regulated. Normally, those workers are dealing with issues of agricultural assistance, trafficking and HIV/AIDS, East says. They're now engaged in assessing the scale of the disaster and distributing water and rice to stricken areas.

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