Aid workers say cyclone toll exceeds junta's estimate

May 30, 2008 (DVB), The death toll from Cyclone Nargis, which hit Burma on 2 May, is likely to be greater than the military regime's official estimate, according to a volunteer team from Mandalay.

The team said villagers in remote areas had told them the toll was higher than the government had estimated.

"The government has stated that 77,738 are dead and 55,900 missing from the storm," a team member said.

"We haven't so far heard of anyone who was missing arriving back home so let's assume those missing are dead and that 133,638 were killed altogether," he went on.

"But we have been told by villagers that the death toll they experienced exceeded the government figures."

The volunteer team visited 90 remote villages from 15 to 25 May to distribute relief supplies to cyclone victims.

The villages were on the far outskirts of cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta's Bogalay, Dadaye and Phyar Pone townships.

The team witnessed the bodies of people and animals floating in the water during its ten-day trip.

"We first arrived in one place on 15 May and saw 71 dead bodies floating around. We also saw dead cows and buffalos," the team member said.

"At first, we tried to arrange funerals for the people but we couldn't do it as there were too many so we donated money to monasteries and asked local abbots to organise it."

Many of the worst-hit areas have been inaccessible to aid workers and so the damage has not been fully assessed.

Cyclone survivors told the volunteer team their first priority was shelter, and clothing was the second biggest need.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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