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Death Toll Rises in Myanmar as Aid Groups Face Obstacles

A senior U.S diplomat in Myanmar said Wednesday that the death toll from Tropical Cyclone Nargis could reach 100,000, as disease outbreaks remain a threat and some aid groups face difficulty gaining access to the country. A United Nations official discusses efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the military-ruled country.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now the latest in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.

    We begin with a report from inside Burma by a British television news correspondent. Because the military government has refused entry to most foreign journalists, we can't reveal his name or news organization. He filed his story under extremely difficult conditions. And the technical quality is not up to usual standards.

  • REPORTER:

    There's not much left of this family's home.

    "We were trapped in that house for hours," this woman explains. "We were wet and afraid, and we ran to the nearby monastery."

    "The water was right up to here," this man explains.

    "Where are the body of the dead? Where are the body?"

    And there were many dead bodies all over here. It was a similar story of devastation as we journeyed through these delta villages toward Bogalay. All the while, we were on the lookout for the Burmese army trucks.

    An army truck or not? Every time we come close to a police or military position, we have to duck down and hide in the back of the car, because, if we're spotted, we might well be detained. The regime has made it pretty clear they don't want foreigners and their prying eyes around here, and perhaps for good reason.

    As we move close to Bogalay, the destruction deepened, as did the anger towards the government. In this village, the locals were scathing about the regime's response.

    This woman showed me her shattered home. A chunk of corrugated iron now covers her precious Buddha shrine. The army's done nothing to help.

    Along the road near the entrance to Bogalay, we met a grieving young man.

    "My brother and his wife died while they were still holding hands," he says.

    How many? Very sad, eh?

    Many children died, too, as they tried to climb the coconut trees and the snakes bit them. He explained that he had wanted to capture the appalling images of what he had seen, but he was afraid the regime might kill him if they found the tapes.

    Fear and suspicion towards the authorities run deep up here. We met another young man. There's at least 50,000 dead around here, and many dead are being collected by boat from remote villages, he says. It seems the government has taken some bodies to a special place.

    We heard similar accusations from other residents of Bogalay. A helicopter was flying overhead near the entrance to the city. And when we tried to enter, we found soldiers lining the bridge. The locals suggested they might be fearful we would see all the dead bodies.

    We had to make a retreat. And as we moved back along the nearby road, we met a group of monks still licking their wounds. Even this brick building did not survive the force of the almighty cyclone.

    They may not have much to eat, but at least they have salvaged some of their holy relics. Monasteries in the area have come to the salvation of the local people. At this one, hundreds have taken refuge, after losing their homes. At night, this is a temporary shelter for about 1,000 people, who have to fend for their own food and water.

    So, you think they will bring some aid? The international will bring some aid here?

  • MAN:

    No, no, no, no, no international. No one here.

  • REPORTER:

    No one here?

  • MAN:

    No one here.

  • REPORTER:

    No one came here? No aid agency come here? No one? And no U.N.?

  • MAN:

    The government doesn't — doesn't accept the other aid. They are closed every place.

  • REPORTER:

    So, while the rest of the world clamors to get aid into Burma, there's nothing these people can do, but wait and hope that the nightmare may soon be lifted.

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