Myanmar's military government will allow medical workers from Southeast Asia to help in relief efforts for an estimated 2.4 million victims of Cyclone Nargis, a regional grouping said Monday.
Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said Myanmar will permit medical teams from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help, but they will not have unfettered access to devastated areas. ASEAN members will also establish a mechanism for getting worldwide aid into Myanmar, he said.
The ruling junta said that damages from the May 2-3 disaster exceeded $10 billion.
On Monday, about 30 doctors and nurses from Thailand began working in the cyclone-ravaged country. Medical personnel from China, India and Thailand arrived in Myanmar's largest city of Yangon on Sunday night, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
At least 78,000 people were killed in the May 3 storm and another 56,000 were missing.
Meanwhile, the military regime allowed the U.N.'s humanitarian chief to tour the devastated Irrawaddy delta. John Holmes, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, took a brief tour of the region on Monday, although the United Nations said its foreign staff were still barred from the delta.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will also be allowed into the disaster zone this week, officials said. Earlier, junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe refused to take telephone calls from Ban and had not responded to letters from him, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said in New York.
The United Nations is seeing "some progress in terms of pipelines starting to come through" but the aid operation was still unsatisfactory," said Amanda Pitt, a U.N. spokeswoman in Bangkok.
Conditions, especially in the hard-hit low-lying Irrawaddy Delta, remain precarious for survivors, who face disease, malnutrition and exposure to the elements.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press.