Governments and relief agencies from around the world have united in asking the military junta that rules Burma to allow them into the isolated Asian nation to help deliver emergency aid in the wake of the cyclone that devastated the Irradwaddy Delta region early this month.

Aid agencies have already warned that unless relief is delivered quickly to the stricken regions, the death toll could climb well above the more than 100,000 people currently believed to have been killed when Cyclone Nargis struck on 3rd May. 

Officially, the death toll has been revised to more than 28,000 with more than 33,000 still missing.

As many as 1.5 million people require food and shelter in the wake of the cyclone with fears that if left to fend for themselves, disease could break out.

While there were signs the Government was easing restrictions for foreign aid to enter the country on Monday when the first US aircraft landed in Rangoon following protracted negotiations between the two countries, many aid agencies remain locked out.

Oxfam’s regional director for East Asia, Sarah Ireland, has said that the nation could be facing a “public health catastrophe” which could see the death toll multiplied by up to 15 times.

“In the Boxing Day tsunami 250,000 people lost their lives in the first few hours but we did not see an outbreak of disease because the host government’s and the world mobilised a massive aid effort to prevent it happening. We have to do the same for the people of Myanmar (Burma).”

Oxfam has joined other agencies in calling for the lifting of visa restrictions on aid agency workers.

Last week, the World Food Programme was forced to suspend delivery of aid as the junta seized all the food and equipment the WFP had flown into the country for assisting victims of the cyclone.

World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello - one of few Western aid workers who has been allowed into the country - expressed his frustration late last week as the $3 million of relief supplies sat stranded in Dubai waiting for clearance to enter the country.

“It’s a real feeling of impotence, almost guilt that we know people are there but we can’t get to them,” he told The Age newspaper.

Australia announced on the weekend that it was increasing its aid to the stricken nation from the $3 million initially announced to $25 million with half to be given to the UN’s appeal and Australian non-government organisations and UN agencies such as the WFP.