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The official death toll following Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis, which
The official death toll following Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis, which hit the Southeast Asian country two weeks ago, has risen to 77,738, and 56,000 are missing, national television reported on Friday.

The cyclone, which has been the worst natural disaster to hit the region since the 2004 tsunami, battered Myanmar on May 2, devastating large parts of the country including the main city Yangon, and forcing thousands of people to abandon their homes.

The new figure is nearly double the toll of 43,000 released by the military government on Thursday.

According to UN estimates up to 2 million people have been severely affected by the cyclone, and the death toll may reach between 63,000 and 100,000.

Aid group Oxfam International warned that the death toll could even rise to 1.5 million if disease breaks out and people do not get access to clean water.

The risk of epidemic is now critical due to the lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitary conditions caused by rotting carcasses and corpses strewn over towns and villages.

A state of emergency has been introduced in the five worst-hit areas - the Irrawaddy delta, the cities of Yangon and Pegu, and the states of Karen and Mon. Most of the deaths have been in the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region.

Although aid has begun to trickle through to the disaster-hit country, many aid organizations have complained that distribution is being delayed by the military junta, who are reluctant to permit foreigners into the worst-hit areas.

The UN World Food Program delivered aid to about 28,000 people in Myanmar on Wednesday. Various media reports said international aid arriving into the country was being stolen by the army.

More than 100 doctors from neighboring countries will arrive in Myanmar on Saturday to offer medical assistance.


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