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Myanmar agrees to accept ASEAN cyclone aid

  • Story Highlights
  • Junta will let neighbors send medical personnel and assessment team
  • The 10 ASEAN nations earlier met to discuss emergency aid measures
  • United Nations secretary general will also visit cyclone-hit country this week
  • Two weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck, ruling junta leader visits refugee camp
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BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Myanmar has agreed to let its South Asian neighbors send medical personnel and an assessment team to the cyclone-ravaged country, more than two weeks after a storm that killed tens of thousands of people.

Monday's decision came after an emergency meeting in Singapore of the 10 countries that make up ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said.

The top U.N. aid official, John Holmes, toured the worst-hit areas of the country Monday and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar on Wednesday in an attempt to "accelerate relief efforts."

The military junta that rules Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- has been strongly criticized by the United Nations and United States, among others, for its reluctance to let foreign aid workers into the country.

People in the worst-affected areas say they have received no help at all from their government, a CNN correspondent in the country has discovered. Are you there? Send photos, videos

"I have been trying to contact our government representative for two weeks," the village chief in Don Le said. "But so far I have received no reply." A quarter of the village's population was killed by the cyclone.

A villager named Ko U showed CNN where his house used to stand -- and the place where he found the body of his three-year-old daughter. Video See CNN's behind-the-scenes report on the cyclone devastation. »

"I dug her out of the mud and buried her on other side of the river," he said.

Corpses still line the shores along some parts the Irrawaddy Delta, the part of the country hardest-hit by the cyclone.

Many in the village clearly remain traumatized by what they have witnessed, and they said if they did not get more help soon, their future would be a fight for survival.

Many of those who survived the cyclone now have to flee their homes.

"We simply couldn't survive in our village any longer. We would starve if we stayed there," a woman packing her belongings into a boat told CNN. She did not give her name. Journalists who gave her some of their food were told it was the first supplies she had received in more than two weeks.

CNN is not identifying its reporter, who is traveling without permission from the country's ruling military leaders.

World Food Programme spokesman Marcus Prior said the agency is also finding settlements that have received little if any assistance so far.

The WFP said it has dispatched enough food to feed more than 250,000 people with a first ration of rice -- enough to last for two weeks -- as well as high-energy biscuits and beans.

But Prior called the aid insufficient and said it is arriving too slowly

The ASEAN assessment team will go to Myanmar on Wednesday to gauge the impact of the disaster and the scope of aid needed, Wirayuda said.

In addition, each ASEAN country outside of Myanmar committed to send 30 medical personnel -- for a total of 270 -- to help with the medical needs of the displaced population. ASEAN is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The U.N. World Health Organization says the official toll of dead and missing now exceeds 132,000, with more than 19,000 injured. The U.N. estimates that 2.4 million people have been affected by the storm.

Aid agencies have struggled to gain access to the country from the secretive military junta that rules Myanmar, though some relief flights landed. The regime has indicated that it would like supplies but not international aid workers.

Meanwhile, the ruling junta has announced a three-day mourning period for victims of the cyclone beginning Tuesday morning, The Associated Press reported Monday.

State television announced that the national flag would be flown at half-mast, AP said.

Ban's visit will follow the short tour by U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes.

Video broadcast on state television on Sunday showed Holmes, flanked by troops, touring a hospital and speaking with doctors and cyclone survivors.

The country's reclusive junta leader Than Shwe was also shown visiting a refugee camp outside Yangon, two weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar.

Surrounded by fellow junta members dressed in olive-green military suits, Shwe walked through streets talking with the people who lined up outside their neatly constructed tents.


The junta leaders -- who traveled about 320 km (200 miles) south to Yangon from the new capital Naypyidaw -- looked on as aid workers at the camp opened plastic cases filled with relief supplies. Video Watch Myanmar leader's visit »

Forecasts show that in the coming days, the Irrawaddy Delta could receive another 12 cm (4.7 inches) of rain, adding to the woes of the cyclone-affected masses.

All About MyanmarNatural DisastersAssociation of Southeast Asian NationsBan Ki-moon

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