Cyclone Death Toll 22,000 and Climbing

Burmese junta allows international aid, delays vote in some parts
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2008 7:16 AM CDT
A Myanmar Buddhist Monk makes his way past a fallen tree following a devastating cyclone, Sunday, May 4, 2008, in Rangoon. The death toll is now at 15,000 and expected to rise.   (AP Photo/Barry Broman)
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(Newser) – The cyclone that ripped through Burma has claimed at least 22,000 lives, the military junta said today, and more than 40,000 remain missing. The scope of the disaster forced military leaders to postpone a constitutional referendum—designed to cement their grip on power—in the worst-hit regions, the New York Times notes. The vote is still scheduled to take place Saturday in the rest of the country.

The worst cyclone since 1991 has led the isolated military dictatorship to accept foreign aid, a gesture it rejected in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami. Relief organizations have been allowed to send in extra personnel, and the EU has dispatched three ships freighted with food. Burma watchers are now wondering what impact the cyclone will have on the future of the junta, already battered by last year's monk-led uprising.