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Page last updated at 06:16 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 07:16 UK

Burma hits out at cyclone reports

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Secret aid missions of ordinary Burmese people

Burma's state-run media has strongly condemned media reports of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis.

An article in a state daily accused "self-seekers" of faking video footage of the destruction - and foreign media of using it to harm Burma's image.

Reports that survivors were living in dire conditions in the Irrawaddy Delta were exaggerated, it said.

Burma's leaders have been heavily criticised for their reluctance to accept help after the 2 May cyclone.

According to official figures, 78,000 people were killed and another 56,000 are missing. More than two million people have been affected, aid agencies say.

After an initial refusal, the military junta is now allowing some experts from UN agencies and South East Asian neighbours to help victims of the storm.

But earlier this week US Navy ships carrying much-needed helicopters and landing craft left Burma's coastline after 15 failed attempts to convince the regime to let them in.

'Made-up stories'

Some of the most shocking footage that has emerged from the storm-hit region has come from video shot by Burmese amateurs and circulated on DVDs.

People wait to receive aid from private donors in the Irrawaddy Delta on 3 June 2008
Burmese media labelled coverage of the cyclone as "despicable"

In an article, the New Light of Myanmar condemned "self-seekers exploiting storm victims".

They were, it said, "shooting video films featuring made-up stories in the storm-affected areas... and sending the videotapes to foreign news agencies".

"Those foreign news agencies are issuing such groundless news stories with the intention of tarnishing the image of Myanmar (Burma) and misleading the international community," it said.

The daily also accused reporters of exaggerating the conditions in which victims were living, describing the coverage as "despicable and inhuman acts of local and foreign anti-government groups".

Burma is desperate to prove that it is in control of the relief effort and that it does not need large-scale foreign help, correspondents say.

It has done its utmost to prevent journalists entering the storm-hit region, setting up police checkpoints to stop people travelling into the area.

But aid agencies say they still do not have the unrestricted access they need to fully implement the kind of relief and reconstruction operation required.

The story came a day after Burma's most prominent comedian, Zarganar, was detained after leading a private effort to deliver aid to cyclone victims.

Many Burmese volunteers have been organising their own deliveries to the delta to help people who have not received any aid.


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