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Death Toll in Burma Cyclone Nargis Rises to 15,000

Death Toll in Burma Cyclone Rises to 15,000

Burma's state media say more than 15,000 people were killed when Cyclone Nargis struck the country Saturday. The latest death toll includes 10,000 killed just in the town of Bogalay, located in the Irrawaddy river delta where the storm swept ashore three days ago.

The death toll is expected to rise, as information comes in from hard-to-reach rural areas.

Officials said Monday that thousands of people are missing, while hundreds of thousands are without shelter. The prices of food and fuel have risen dramatically.

The government has declared Burma's main city of Rangoon and five central and southern states - Yangon, Ayeyawaddy, Bago, Mon and Karen - disaster areas.

Some witnesses of the devastation have complained that the government is not doing enough to help survivors of the storm, which has created a severe shortage of food and drinkable water.

International groups have expressed concern that aid might not reach the people most in need in the hardest hit parts of Burma.

Despite the upheaval, Burma's military government says a constitutional referendum will go ahead on Saturday.

In a statement carried by state media Monday, the government said the referendum is only a few days away and that people are eagerly looking forward to voting.

Burma's military rulers have said the vote on May 10 will clear the way for democratic elections in 2010. The opposition says the proposed constitution will reinforce military control.

ENDS

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