First international aid reaches Myanmar after cyclone

YANGON, May 7 — International aid began to trickle into Myanmar yesterday, but the stricken Irrawaddy delta, the nation’s rice bowl where 22,000 people perished and twice as many are missing, remained cut off from the world.

In the former capital of Yangon, soldiers from the repressive military regime were out on the streets in large numbers for the first time since Cyclone Nargis hit over the weekend, helping to clear away rubble. Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns wielded axes and long knives to remove ancient, fallen trees that were once the city’s pride.

The UN’s World Food Programme said international aid began to flow, with 800 tons of food getting through to the first of nearly 1 million people left homeless by the cyclone.

Concerns mounted over the lack of food, water and shelter in the delta region and adjacent Yangon, where nearly a quarter of Myanmar’s 57 million people live, as well as the spread of disease in a country with one of the world’s worst health systems.

“Our biggest fear is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself,” said Caryl Stern, who heads the UN Children’s Fund in the United States.

The White House said yesterday the US would send more than $3 million to help cyclone victims, following an initial emergency contribution of $250,000.

President Bush called on the junta to allow the United States to send in a disaster assessment team, which he said would allow for quicker and larger aid infusions.

Australia announced today that it will give $3 million in aid to Myanmar.

The UN World Food Programme offered a grim assessment of the destruction: up to 1 million people homeless, some villages almost totally destroyed and vast rice-growing areas wiped out.

“The biggest problem will be to reach the affected areas. There will be a huge logistical problem,” he said, adding that “for remote areas, assessment teams … will need to go by helicopters and boats.”

The delta is criss-crossed with waterways, but Horsey said they are not easily accessible, even during normal times.

“The big concern is waterborne diseases. So that’s why it’s crucial to get safe water in. Then mosquito nets, cooking kits and clothing in the next few days,” he said. “Food is not an emergency priority. Water and shelter are.” — AP

Full article here.


Mercy Malaysia is helping out in the crisis in Myanmar by sending a team of people to evaluate the situation. The Star has also set up a fund so that people can donate towards helping the cyclone victims.

What is the Malaysian government doing? Or does it even plan to do anything? Or is it that Malaysia respects the agreement made in ASEAN so much that they’re not going to help?

Just curious.


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