YANGON, Burma — Bodies floated in flood waters and survivors tried to reach dry ground on boats using blankets as sails, while the top U.S. diplomat in Burma said today that up to 100,000 people may have died in the devastating cyclone.
Hungry crowds stormed the few shops that opened in the country's stricken Irrawaddy delta, sparking fist fights, according to Paul Risley, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program in neighboring Thailand.
Shari Villarosa, who heads the U.S. Embassy in Burma, said food and water are running short in the delta area and called the situation there "increasingly horrendous."
"There is a very real risk of disease outbreaks as long as this continues," Villarosa told reporters.
State media in Burma reported that nearly 23,000 people died when Cyclone Nargis blasted the country's western coast on Saturday and more than 42,000 others were missing.
U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said that the cyclone's death toll may rise "very significantly."
The military junta normally restricts the access of foreign officials and organizations to the country, and aid groups were struggling to deliver relief goods.
Internal U.N. documents obtained by the Associated Press showed growing frustrations at foot-dragging by the junta, which has kept the impoverished nation isolated for five decades to maintain its iron-fisted control.
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