July 21, 2008 / 12:27 PM / 11 years ago

Myanmar cyclone recovery cost tops $1 bln--UN/ASEAN

(Updates with Singapore, Myanmar comments)

SINGAPORE, July 21 (Reuters) - Recovery from a cyclone that tore into Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta in May, leaving at least 138,000 dead or missing, will cost more than $1 billion, a report by the United Nations and Southeast Asian nations concluded.

The estimate, released on Monday at a meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), covers the most urgent needs such as food, agriculture and housing for the next three years.

"It’s a relief to confirm there is no mass starvation, or outbreaks of epidemics," Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo told a news briefing. "But there is a need for help — we need money, we need assistance."

He said the country would need everything from clean water and building works to boats, fishing nets and buffaloes.

The United Nations appealed earlier this month for more than $300 million in additional aid for the former Burma, on top of $178 million already provided by donors.

"While significant progress has been made to date, we are still in the relief phase for this aid operation," John Holmes, U.N. under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters.

Holmes is due to visit Myanmar for three days this week to check on aid delivery to the isolated country that initially shut out foreign relief workers after the deadly cyclone.

Myanmar’s secretive military government lifted restrictions on foreign aid workers after a visit in late May by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"We wish to express our gratitude to the international community," Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win said at the briefing.

He said that the destruction had been so immense the country alone could not cope with relief. "The response from the international community was quite overwhelming." (Reporting by Jan Dahinten, Melanie Lee and Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Roger Crabb)

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