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Boat Carrying Crucial Relief Supplies to Burmese Cyclone Survivors Sinks

  • VOA News

A boat carrying Red Cross supplies to survivors of Cyclone Nargis has sunk in Burma, as the death toll from the storm passed 28-thousand people.

Officials say the boat sank Sunday after apparently hitting a submerged tree in the Irrawaddy Delta. All four aid workers on board escaped.

The accident underscored the difficulty of delivering supplies to the many Burmese people desperately waiting for food and water.

Burmese state television reports at least 37-thousand people remain missing more than a week after the cyclone hit. The British aid agency Oxfam is warning that one-and-a-half million people could die if they do not receive adequate food, water and supplies.

On Sunday, a Red Cross cargo plane arrived in Rangoon, carrying a mobile water treatment plant and medical supplies for about 10-thousand people.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says most of the supplies are to assist thousands of detainees in Burmese prisons.

The cyclone destroyed entire villages, fishing ports and infrastructure, leaving communities exposed and destitute. Still, humanitarian aid is only trickling into the country because Burma's military leaders are suspicious of foreigners.

The military government has granted a few visas to foreign experts, and are insisting that Burmese nationals, mostly soldiers, distribute the aid. Donor countries are concerned military officials will hoard the supplies or use the goods for their own benefit.

Diplomats and aid agencies around the world are struggling to lobby the Burmese government to allow foreign workers and more than 100 million dollars in assistance to enter the country.

Despite the disaster, the military government held a referendum on a new constitution Saturday. The military says the new charter will lead to democracy and general elections in 2010. But the opposition says the constitution strengthens the army's control over the country.

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