Will Burma (Myanmar) let world in for aid?
The junta sought international assistance quickly but has been slow to give visas to foreign aid workers.
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The disaster is compelling one of the world's most secretive and isolated regimes to swing open its doors to the international community. At a meeting with foreign diplomats on Monday, Burma's foreign minister Nyan Win appealed for international aid – a dramatic political reversal from 2004, when the junta rejected such assistance after the devastating tsunami.
At least one planeload containing nine tons of relief supplies was reported to have landed in Rangoon, the former capital, Tuesday, flown in by the Thai military. Thailand also said it would make available $100,000 in emergency funds, the Bangkok Post reported.
But as of Tuesday, international relief groups were still awaiting final confirmation from Burma's government that their workers and supplies would be allowed in.
"[International relief groups] don't yet have clarification. Insofar as the Myanmar authorities are interested in getting aid, we will of course facilitate international relief workers, although it's not clear how many," says Mr. Lom.
A worsening portrait of ruin has emerged in the wake of the cyclone, which ripped through Burma's central coast on Saturday, packing 120 mile-per-hour winds that flattened shantytowns and 12-foot tidal waves that swept away entire villages in low-lying coastal areas. Eight townships were reported as completely destroyed.
Even before the cyclone hit, the Irrawaddy River delta southwest of Rangoon was known as a swampy landscape of poor farmers and fishermen with flimsy homes. The area, one of the least developed in southeast Asia, lacks dykes or other barriers to protect people from sea surges.
Mr. Myint, of the NLD, said he spoke by satellite phone with another party member who went to the devastated Irrawaddy delta area to search for family members.
"The worst thing is in the villages. Only two or three survivors in each village, with maybe 1,000 population in each," says Myint. "He saw hundreds of dead bodies in Bogalay yesterday, lying on the road. Nobody is collecting them. It looked like they drowned in the sea surge."
Myint's colleague moved on to nearby Lattputa Tuesday, where he reported that at least half of the township's population of 40,000 was dead. "Most of the people are helpless. They have no food, water, or medicine," Myint continued.
Survivors, meanwhile, entered their fourth day without electricity and drinking water in many areas, including Rangoon, home to 6.5 million people. Threats of disease remain high, relief agencies warn, and hundreds of thousands are said to be homeless.
Burma’s $10 million in aid
Cyclone Nargin’s path of destruction through the Irrawaddy Delta has prompted offers of outside help for the people of Burma (Myanmar).
Governments and relief agencies around the world have promised aid and technical support, including the following:
• United Nations has assembled a five-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team in Bangkok, Thailand. www.ochaonline.un.org
• International Red Cross relief workers are distributing drinking water, clothing, food, plastic tarpaulins, and hygiene kits. www.icrc.org
• The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ emergency disaster fund released about $189,000. www.ifrc.org
• Myanmar Red Cross The government said it would allocate 5 billion kyats ($4.5 million) for relief and resettlement work. The organization is also distributing insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent malaria.
• The American Red Cross: It has pledged $100,000 in funds and supplies. www.redcross.org
• World Vision, Australia: The Christian relief group pledged A$3 million ($2.8 million) for the first month of relief operations in Myanmar. About 25 health specialists are being sent to boost efforts of 600 permanent staff. www.worldvision.com.au
• France €200,000 ($292,000) in aid
• Spain €500,000 ($731,000) to the World Food Program for Myanmar.
• Indonesia: $1 million, in additional to send food, medicine, and other aid.
• U.S. $250,000 in aid