Myanmar Stalling on Allowing Aid Into the Country

They are sleeping on the road, on railroad tracks, on bridges. If they can, they sleep above the water line below which there is nothing left, the line that marks where their lives were swept away.

They stare into television cameras blankly, sitting on mud where their homes used to be. Or they stare from monasteries, the only buildings around with a roof, houses of worship that have become homes to hundreds.

They are the lucky ones , Myanmar's survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which is now set to become the greatest natural disaster since the devastating tsunami of 2004.

For the first time, the top U.S. diplomat in Yangon, the country's largest city, said today the death toll could go as high as 100,000 in the area hit hardest by the storm.

For those who made it through alive, there is hunger, thirst and destruction.

"We have no home left. People are now searching for dead bodies of their family members," one woman told Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident group based in Norway.

In her home village of Danyingon, only six people survived, she said. "Everybody I saw is crying too much and searching for bodies of love ones. There is a bad smell from dead bodies."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today urged Myanmar to accept foreign aid, something the ruling military junta has been slow to do.

"What remains is for the Burmese government to allow the international community to help its people. It should be a simple matter. It is not a matter of politics" but rather a humanitarian crisis," Rice said.

Washington has urged Myanmar's neighbors to use whatever leverage they have to convince the government to allow aid shipments and relief teams into the country, Rice said.

The State Department has spoken with China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand about pressuring Myanmar to accept aid, spokesman Sean McCormick said.

The U.S. Disaster Assistance Response Team is in Bangkok and has applied for visas to enter Myanmar, according to USAID sources, but they have not yet been granted.

The first pictures of the survivors' conditions show just how powerful Nargis' 120 mph winds were and how long-lasting its effects will be. More than 25 million people lived in the cyclone's path and anywhere from 1 million to 2 million of them are now homeless, according to the United Nations.

The Myanmar government says 70,000 people are dead or missing, U.S. charge d'affairs Shari Villarosa in Yangon said she has heard from relief organizations in the delta area that the death toll could reach 100,000.

"The information that we're receiving indicates that there may well be over 100,000 deaths in the delta area," Villarosa said. She added, "This is an estimate of what the death toll can reach, this is not a confirmed figure."

Villarosa said the Myanmar junta has estimated that 95 percent of houses in the Irrawaddy Delta have been destroyed, and that seawater and dead bodies have contaminated the area's drinking water.

One of the government's great fears now is that cholera could develop.

It's a situation that Villarosa said was "increasingly horrendous."

"One million people are currently in need of shelter and life-saving assistance," Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian affairs office told ABC News in Bangkok. "There are townships in excess of [380 square miles] are completely under water."

The water that has inundated the region is undrinkable salt water, adding to their desperate misery.

The storm hit hardest in the Irrawaddy Delta, the country's fertile rice bowl and one of the its most populated areas. Those towns that are under water are unreachable by anything other than boat. There are corpses floating in the water, entire townships under water.

In one town, 10,000 people died, state media reported, and more than 90 percent of the structures were destroyed.

"We have to survive somehow," one man told CNN in Bogalay, where survivors have been throwing dead bodies into the river. "We eat whatever people donate."

Donations and aid are arriving in Myanmar, but slowly. The military junta that rules Myanmar stonily has resisted an influx of foreign aid workers. Emergency relief organizations have been told they'll be given access, but then their coordinators sit in Thailand or other neighboring countries, refused entry visas.

The Myanmar junta has relented slightly. A senior administration official tells ABC News that its government requested U.S. satellite imagery of the damage caused by the cyclone. The request came to the U.S. Embassy in Yangon. The official says the imagery has been declassified and given to the junta today.

This is the first time during this crisis that Myanmar has requested -- or accepted -- help from the United States.

Myanmar, however, is still refusing to accept any other form of U.S. assistance and has yet to grant visas for U.S. relief workers.

Villarosa said that she is hearing "openness to U.S. assistance," but that the junta is a "very paranoid regime, paranoid about the U.S." and talks "have not reached the point of discussing putting U.S. troops on the ground."

Today the government said it would allow the first major U.N. aid into the country, a flight with 25 tons of relief that will leave from Italy. And it said it had started helicopter drops of food and water into the Irrawaddy Delta.

A Thai military flight from Bangkok full of about 10 tons of food is leaving from Bangkok to Yangon each afternoon. And state television shows aid workers, almost all of them in the country before the storm hit, distributing relief items such as water-purification tablets, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting and basic medical supplies.

The channel quoted Gen. Tha Aye as stating that the situation was "returning to normal" in certain areas, according to The Associated Press.

But in so much of the country, hundreds of thousands are still hungry and thirsty, lacking the most basic services.

An AP correspondent reported from a morning market in the Yangon suburb of Kyimyindaing. The fishmonger shouted to shoppers, "Come, come the fish is very fresh."

But an angry woman snapped back: "Even if the fish is fresh, I have no water to cook it!"

And in Yangon, the former capital and a city of 6 million people, there is almost no electricity four days after the storm landed.

"There are big trees uprooted everywhere and the streetlights are also fallen down obstructing the traffic," Mae Thiwari, an ABC News producer, said by phone from Myanmar.

There is very little government assistance, and the people she spoke to said they do not have faith in the government to help alleviate their suffering, both physical and economic.

"They are also complaining about the price of everything going very high," Thiwari said. "At the moment I saw on the streets lots of vendors selling flashlights. The price of a flashlight has gone up three times."

Water and rice doubled in price, the AP reported, a serious financial blow in a country where millions of people are believed to live below the poverty line.

The survivors are left to suffer. But they admit they are the lucky ones.

Aye Kyu, a doctor in the town of Labutta, said he received a series of survivors who had clung to trees during the storm.

"All the victims were brought to the town and I asked them, 'How many of you survived?' and they said about 200, 300,'" he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

How many lived in the town, he asked. "About 5,000."

Jonathan Karl, Kirit Radia and Jim Sciutto in Washington contributed to this report