Red Cross: Burma Cyclone Death Toll Could Rise to Nearly 128,000

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The death toll from the cyclone in Burma could wind up climbing to between 68,833 and 127,990, the Red Cross said Wednesday, as the United Nations warned that a second storm was forming in the region.

The numbers were calculated using pooled figures from other aid groups, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

A tropical depression in the Bay of Bengal added new worries, but late in the day forecasters said it was weakening and unlikely to grow into a cyclone.

The total population affected in Burma, renamed Myanmar by the ruling military junta, is somewhere in the range of 1.64 million and 2.51 million, the Red Cross said in the report issued Wednesday.

"Official government casualty figures remain significantly lower," the organization said. The government revised its death toll on Wednesday to 38,491. It said the number of people missing in the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis remains at 27,838.

The Red Cross figure is the highest reported so far. The U.N. has said the number of dead could be between 60,000 and 100,000.

On Wednesday, the U.N. raised its estimates on the number of people impacted by the cyclone. John Holmes, the head of humanitarian affairs at the U.N., said that between 1.6 million and 2.5 million were "severely affected" and in desperate need of relief, up from 1.5 million people, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, a second cyclone forming could hamper relief efforts in Burma, less than two weeks after the region was devastated by the killer storm, the U.N. said Wednesday.

The United Nations' weather center is tracking a nascent tropical storm that is likely to become a cyclone, said Amanda Pitt, the spokeswoman of the world body's humanitarian relief program, in Bangkok, Thailand.

"This is terrible," she told reporters, adding that it could further jeopardize the people who survived Cyclone Nargis on May 3 and the efforts to distribute aid for them.

She couldn't say when or where the cyclone would make a landfall, or when it would become a full-fledged cyclone, which is being monitored by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, a part of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Center.

The center said on its Web site that "the potential for the development of a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is good."

It said "the circulation center (of the storm) is currently transiting generally northwestward across the Rangoon delta region of Burma, which refers to the Irrawaddy delta.

The same area was pulverized by Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3, leaving more than 60,000 people dead or missing.

The International Red Cross estimated that the death toll in Burma is between 68,833 and 127,990. As many as 2.5 million people have been affected by the disaster, a humanitarian official told Reuters.

Pitt said if the cyclone warnings come true, the inadequate relief efforts for survivors of Nargis will be jeopardized.

"This is always a worry when you have further hazards affecting people," she said, adding that it "impacts people's ability to survive and cope with what happened to them."

"They are already weak. This is a great problem and impacts on how we can help people," she said.

The U.N. is leading the international relief effort, which is trying to supplement the Burma junta's aid delivery that has been criticized by aid groups and survivors as woefully inadequate.

Yet, the isolationist junta has refused to let international experts who have experience in managing humanitarian crises, saying it is capable of dealing with it on its own.

Meanwhile, some 2 million people are living in miserable conditions, many of them depending on rain for fresh drinking water, and meager food rations. Most water sources such as rivers and canals, which are littered with bodies and animal carcasses, are also contaminated by fecal matter and bacteria.

Aid agencies have warned that a humanitarian and medical catastrophe is building in the absence of a full-fledged relief program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.