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NEW: "Significant" tropical cyclone forming near Myanmar, weather center warns

 
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05/14/2008 03:16 PM
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NEW: "Significant" tropical cyclone forming near Myanmar, weather center warns
Thai PM: Myanmar does not want foreign help

[link to www.cnn.com]

* Story Highlights
* NEW: Junta does not want help from foreign aid experts, Thai PM says
* NEW: "Significant" tropical cyclone forming near Myanmar, weather center warns
* People worried that a new storm will exacerbate problems in the country
* Agencies estimate that 2 million are still homeless following Cyclone Nargis

PATTAYA, Thailand (CNN) -- Myanmar's military junta has reportedly insisted it does not need help from foreign aid experts, while survivors in the cyclone-devastated country are braced for further hardship following warnings that more bad weather is coming this week.

A "significant" tropical cyclone is expected to form in the next 24 hours and sweep across Myanmar's largest city Yangon and into the Irrawaddy delta area -- the region worst affected -- according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Aid agencies estimate that there are around 2 million people who survived Cyclone Nargis on May 3, many of whom are still homeless, and the groups have been able to reach only 270,000 of them so far, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

But Thailand's prime minister said Wednesday that the junta believes it is in control of the relief operations, AP reported.

Samak Sundaravej, back from a visit to Yangon, said the military had guaranteed him that there were no disease outbreaks or starvation among the survivors.

He said Myanmar did not want any foreign aid workers because they "have their own team to cope with the situation." VideoWatch aid being unloaded in Yangon »

The United Nations estimates that between 63,000 and 100,000 people died as a result of the cyclone, while the junta has put the figure at less than 30,000.

"The government has a responsibility to assist their people in the event of a natural disaster," Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs, told AP. VideoWatch Myanmar troops disperse aid to cyclone victims »

"We are here to do what we can and facilitate their efforts and scale up their response. It is clearly inadequate, and we do not want to see a second wave of death as a result of that not being scaled up."

Yangon residents discovered news of a second cyclone on foreign broadcasts and on the Internet as it was not broadcast by Myanmar's state-controlled media, AP reported.

"I prayed to the Lord Buddha, 'Please save us from another cyclone. Not just me but all of Myanmar,"' Min Min, whose house was destroyed in Cyclone Nargis, told AP. The rickshaw driver, his wife and three children now live on their wrecked premises under plastic sheets.

"Another cyclone will be a disaster because our relief center is already overcrowded. I am very worried," Tun Zaw, 68, another Yangon resident who is living in a government relief center, told AP.

However, a tropical cyclone expert at City University of Hong Kong told AP that the new storm would probably not be as severe as Nargis because it was already close to land -- and cyclones need to be over sea to gain full strength.

"There will be a lot of rain but the winds will not be as strong," Prof. Johnny Chan said.

CNN's weather forecast also predicted that the effects would be far less severe.

However, any more significant rainfall could cause further hindrance to aid distribution, which has already been slowed by the ruling junta's refusal to allow most foreign workers to do much more than drop supplies at Yangon airport.

The government has, however, agreed to allow the first foreign aid group into the Irrawaddy delta, according to AP. VideoWatch an aid official discuss Myanmar's response to the devastation »

The agency reported that a Thai medical team is scheduled on Friday to go into a region previously classified as off-limits to foreigners, quoting Dr. Thawat Sutharacha of neighboring Thailand's Public Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has authorized five more U.S. aid flights to land in Yangon, a U.S. Marine spokesman said.

Three planes had left an airbase in Thailand by about 12 p.m. local time, and two more were scheduled to take off soon, said Lt. Col. Doug Powell of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The five flights will deliver 85 tons of supplies including 46 pallets loaded with bottled water, plastic sheeting and hygiene kits as well as crackers and powdered milk, Powell said.

Three additional U.S. military flights have gone into Myanmar already this week -- one on Monday and two on Tuesday. They carried food, mosquito netting and plastic tarpaulins. VideoChildren may account for one-third of the dead in Myanmar »

Meanwhile, the USS Essex, USS Juneau and USS Harpers Ferry were in international waters off the coast of Myanmar laden with more than 14,000 containers of fresh water and other aid, awaiting orders to deliver by air or landing craft, Pentagon officials said.

While this new development was encouraging, much more needs to be done, U.S. Admiral Timothy Keating told CNN on Wednesday.

"It's not enough. We are capable of doing more," he said. "We have delivered 170,000 pounds of relief supplies, water, food, shelter, and interestingly some mosquito netting. So the spigot isn't wide open, but it's open a little bit."

Keating, who was part of the negotiations with the junta to bring in aid, said he hoped Myanmar's leaders would allow much more aid into the country.

"It appears they're allowing limited numbers but increasing numbers," Keating said. "So we're very, very guardedly optimistic we will see approval for more flights."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked the United Nations secretary-general to convene an emergency summit on aid to Myanmar.

Brown told the House of Commons on Wednesday that he had also asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to go to the country himself.

Brown said a British plane had just arrived in Myanmar with shelter supplies for 45,000 people. He said three other planeloads of aid would arrive soon, and eventually two more would arrive "very soon."

"There has been an improvement (in aid getting to victims) but it is not good enough," Brown said. "The regime is still preventing aid getting to the rest of the country."

Brown said it was important for Asian countries to jointly pressure leaders in Myanmar, also called by its previous name Burma by those who refuse to recognize the military junta.

"The key thing at the moment is to pressure the regime by all countries in Asia uniting with all of us to make sure that aid gets to the people of Burma as quickly as possible," he said. "The Burmese regime must now let into the country all aid workers and all aid immediately."

Brown said he asked for an emergency summit because "other countries" blocked a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss aid to Myanmar. When asked to name those other countries, Brown refused.

"We're applying a great deal of pressure," he said. "I think it would be in our interest to apply that pressure rather than name names at the moment."

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