YANGON - The 1.5 million people left destitute by Myanmar's devastating cyclone were increasingly desperate on Wednesday, as foreign aid remained at a trickle and overstretched aid workers struggled to reach hard-hit areas.
Reports a tropical depression was swirling southwest of Yangon and that it could develop into a major storm sparked concerns that a new tragedy could follow the early May cyclone that left up to 100,000 people dead or missing in the Irrawaddy delta.
"It's terrible. This is always another worry when you have a major disaster, that you have further hazards affecting people," Amanda Pitt, spokeswoman for the UN's humanitarian affairs office, told a news conference in Bangkok.
However, A.R. Subbiah, director for the climate risk management team at the U.N.'s Bangkok-based Asia Disaster Preparedness Center, told Reuters later:
"It is part of the monsoon system... Nothing to worry... It is very unlikely to develop into some kind of Nargis."သာမန္ မုတ္သုန္မိုးႏွင့္ ေလ ျဖစ္ၿပီး စိုးရိမ္စရာ မရွိပါဘူး၊ ေနာက္ထပ္ မုန္တိုင္း တစ္ခု ျဖစ္ဖို႔အတြက္ ျဖစ္ႏိုင္ေခ်နည္းပါတယ္။
In a gesture to critics who say outside aid is critical, Myanmar's reclusive military rulers meanwhile invited 160 personnel from neighbouring Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand to assist in delayed and sometimes chaotic relief efforts.
But that is a fraction of the thousands of foreign aid workers needed for a "tsunami-style" international aid operation.
"It's just awful. People are in just desperate need, begging as vehicles go past," Gordon Bacon, an emergency coordinator for the International Rescue Committee, told Reuters from Yangon.
Thailand's prime minister flew to Myanmar's main city of Yangon on Wednesday to try to persuade Prime Minister Thein Sein to let more foreign experts into the pulverised areas.
Samak Sundaravej is hoping for more luck than United Nations and Western officials, whose efforts have had little success.