YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's junta, facing global outrage for spurning international assistance, appeared to relent yesterday, saying it would allow its Asian neighbors to oversee the distribution of foreign relief to cyclone survivors.
It also approved a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and prepared to host a meeting of aid donors, while claiming that losses from the May 2-3 disaster exceeded $10 billion.
A three-day official period of mourning was to begin today for the dead, which numbered more than 78,000, according to official figures. Another 56,000 people are missing.
Conditions, especially in the hard-hit low-lying Irrawaddy Delta, remain precarious for survivors, who face disease, malnutrition and exposure to the elements.
Heavy rain fell again yesterday, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, noting that such weather can have the benefit of providing clean water for those able to catch the downpour with plastic sheeting.
"However, the rain for many others simply adds to the misery as they look forward to their 18th night in often wretched conditions," the agency said. "In addition, access to already relatively inaccessible locations remains very difficult."
The organization was concerned about the distribution of relief supplies, saying "Reports indicate that in most of the bigger affected townships, basic relief and food is available but much less so in the more remote areas."
It added that there seemed to be problems even at some of the temporary relief camps set up by the government:
"While significant relief is getting through, there are indications of mounting frustration among many displaced communities."
Myanmar, responding to entreaties from its Southeast Asia neighbors, promised yesterday that it would let them into the cyclone-devastated areas to oversee and help distribute foreign assistance.
In Singapore, an emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to set up an ASEAN-led task force for distributing foreign aid.
Myanmar agreed to open its doors to medical teams from all ASEAN countries, said Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo.
ASEAN member Thailand had already sent teams in, as did non-ASEAN neighbors India and China.