KYONDAH, Myanmar — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon flew over Myanmar's flooded Irrawaddy Delta on Thursday, where the ravages of a cyclone stretched as far as the eye could see: Villages were empty of life, flattened huts dissolved into vast areas of water and people perched on rooftops.
Nearly three weeks after the storm, life was grim even at a refugee camp showcased by Myanmar's junta during the carefully scripted tour.
"I'm very upset by what I've seen," Ban said, even though the areas to which he was taken were far from those worst-hit by Cyclone Nargis.
The May 2-3 cyclone claimed more than 78,000 lives, according to the government, and more than 56,000 are missing. The junta is seeking up to $11.7-billion in reconstruction aid at a donor conference scheduled this weekend in Yangon, raising fears among human rights activists and Western governments that the disaster could become a diplomatic and financial windfall for the reclusive regime.
Myanmar has a gross domestic product of only about $15-billion, and Myanmar officials have not indicated how they reached their damage assessment.
The military rulers have been eager to show they have the relief effort under control despite spurning the help of foreign disaster experts, and much of the tour was taken up by statistics-laden lectures to make that point.
The U.N. says up to 2.5-million cyclone survivors face hunger, homelessness and potential outbreaks of deadly diseases, especially in the low-lying areas of the Irrawaddy Delta close to the sea. It estimates that aid has reached only 25 percent of victims.