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July 22, 2008

Report: Cyclone Nargis costs $4 billion
A new UN-led report says the damage from Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in May is estimated to be $4 billion.

The report released Monday says this includes $1.7 billion in damage to assets and $2.3 billion from loss of income of the victims. Nargis devastated much of the region south of Yangon,

leaving at least 85,000 people dead and about 50,000 missing.

The report, prepared by the UN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the Myanmar government, is the first comprehensive assessment of the damage caused by the

cyclone in May.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the survivors need at least $1 billion over the next three years so that "we can help them recover back on their feet as soon as possible,"

Associated Press reported

He told a news conference that the three parties involved in the report are seeking at least $1 billion in international aid for humanitarian relief efforts alone over the next three years to

deal with "a tragedy of immense proportions."

"The task ahead is clearly enormous and will take a lot of time, a lot of effort," Surin said, flanked by the foreign ministers of Asean’s 10 members and the United Nations' humanitarian

chief, John Holmes. Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win was also on the panel.

Despite the grim statistics, the report makes no mention of the junta's limited action in the first week of the disaster, which drew worldwide criticism.

The junta initially refused to allow foreign relief workers in and pictures of bodies floating in the water amid reports that soldiers were standing by idly horrified people around the world.

The junta was also slammed for failing to accept international aid quickly and even physically preventing them from going to the hardest hit areas.

The military government had also insisted on full access to international relief, holding up delivery for weeks while survivors waited in desperate conditions. Asean helped facilitate

exchanges between international donors and Myanmar's governing military junta.

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, who chaired the news conference to release the report, refused to allow an Associated Press reporter’s question to Myanmar’s foreign minister

about whether the junta felt that many lives could have been saved had it acted differently. Yeo said that while "political questions" are relevant, the news conference is only about the

assessment report.

At a donor conference after the cyclone, participants demanded full access to storm-hit areas and an independent assessment of aid to ensure it was not being wasted or stolen.

"Both of those things are in place," Holmes said. "It is important to have a report of this quality so that donors are sure their resources are being well spent," Holmes said, appealing to

donors to "continue to be generous."

He said the U.N. had appealed for $482 million in immediate assistance but is still short $300 million.

"We have tired to wipe some tears, soothe some aching hearts ... but not all," Surin said. Failure to provide them aid over the long term "will be detrimental to the very survival of the


Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday hailed the 10-nation Asean’s "constructive role" in helping draw up a recovery plan for Myanmar following the devastation

caused by cyclone Nargis.

More on Myanmar

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