The top UN official in the Asia Pacific region warned on Friday that time was running out to get crucial supplies to cyclone survivors in Myanmar, and said that without aid more people would soon die.
Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary General of the UN for the Asia Pacific, urged Myanmar's military rulers to issue visas to aid workers, which have so far mostly been withheld by the reclusive regime.
"The situation is getting critical and there is only a small window of opportunity if we are to avert the spread of diseases that could multiply the already tragic number of casualties," Heyzer said in a statement.
She "urged again the Myanmar authorities to issue visas expeditiously, and if possible, exempt all visa requirements for all UN aid workers, so that aid can reach the people as quickly as possible."
Myanmar state media has said nearly 23,000 people died and about 42,000 are missing after Cyclone Nargis swept through the country last Friday night, but aid workers and embassy officials say the death toll could top 100,000.
Humanitarian groups have warned of a second wave of deaths if food, clean water and medical supplies are not immediately shipped to the survivors.
Myanmar said in state press on Friday that it was "not ready" for foreign search and rescue teams after the deadly cyclone, announcing that some aid workers had been deported.