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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 14:04 GMT
'Hundreds feared dead' in Burma
The death toll from the Asian tsunami in Burma may be higher than official figures suggest, a UN agency has said.

A World Food Programme official said researchers found 200 households where at least one member was out fishing when it hit and is still missing.

Burma's government has released initial figures of 53 dead and 21 missing.

Burma rarely gives figures of dead from natural disasters, but aid agencies did say the country nevertheless appears to have escaped the tsunami's worst.

The WFP also said around 30,000 Burmese were still in need of clean water, food, medicine and shelter in affected villages.

A BBC correspondent in South East Asia, Tony Cheng, says the government casualty figures had been met with scepticism.

But independent research by aid groups - the International Federation of the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres - suggests that coastal communities may in fact have been spared the devastation seen in other countries bordering the Indian Ocean.

However, Heather Hill, a WFP official in Bangkok, said that UN and WFP staff in Burma have found evidence to suggest that some 200 fishermen are missing in the coastal region of Kawthaung.

But our correspondent says that what complicates matters is that many areas which would have been in the path of the tsunami are sensitive military installations, including a Chinese naval listening post near the Andaman Islands.

Independent observers are unlikely to gain access to these remote areas, which means that an accurate picture of the impact of the tsunami on Burma may never be known.

The forgotten victims of the tsunami


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