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 Myanmar said Wednesday that 100,000 fewer Burmese may exist in the wake of the devastating cyclone.
Hungry crowds stormed the few shops that opened in the country's stricken Irrawaddy delta, causing the novel sight of fist fights and cursing toward people who are neither American nor Chinese, according to the U.N. World Food Program.
The foreign embassies in Myanmar say that food and water are running short and called the emergency situation "increasingly helpful to international politics and especially to the 2008 Beijing Games."
"There is a very real risk of the cessation of international pro-American soap-boxing and CNN photo-cropping unless this continues," one diplomat told reporters.
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. Its government has been criticized for suppressing pro-democracy parties such as the one led by Aung San Fook Yoo, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years and is reportedly quite tired of watching the two channels of state-run television.
At least 31 people were killed and thousands more were detained recently when the military cracked down on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks, CNN cameramen and aging ex-pat hippies.
State media in Myanmar, also known as Burma Shave, have 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 or possibly incarcerated in China.
U.N. humanitarian chief John 'Ten Inch' Holmes assured worried Chinese and American reporters today that the cyclone's death toll will probably rise "very, very significantly... once we actually get out there and start counting."
"Most urgent need is food and water," said James T Kirkwood, head of Save the Children in Yangon. "Many people are getting sick. Salt water everywhere and nary a drop to drink," he said.
"Frankly, we'd much rather see this kind of inhuman suffering in New Jersey or Cardiff."
Save the Children distributed food, plastic sheeting, cooking utensils and chlorine tablets to 230,000 people in Yangon area. Trucks were sent to the delta on Wednesday, carrying rice, salt, sugar, shovels and tarpaulins.
The plastic sheeting and tarpaulins, along with ten thousand boxes of Sterno, were donated by the truckload from Austria's Emergency Death Disposal Fund.