Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Humanitarian groups show signs of frustration as they wait for approval of worker visas and relief supply flights.

BEIJING -- Frustration mounted today as humanitarian groups waited for Myanmar's government to grant visas and allow relief flights into the country, seen as essential to ease the plight of up to 1 million left homeless by last weekend's cyclone.

By day's end in the region a trickle of aid was starting to flow as television footage showed Myanmar soldiers unloading the first foreign aid plane allowed into the country, a Thai C-130 military cargo jet filled with food, bottled water and medical supplies.

The official death count remained about 22,000 people, with 41,000 people missing. Some believe the final death toll will be higher. United Nations teams have described bodies floating in standing water, while CNN footage shows bloated water buffalo carcasses littering the roadside.

United Nations agencies said their first priority was to complete a basic assessment of the damage, hopefully by Thursday, so aid groups will know where and how to deploy their resources. Putting this together has taken longer than expected, in part because of washed out roads and the inaccessibility of the hardest-hit areas in the Irrawaddy River delta.

"Since there are no good phones, we've had to wait for people to physically come back to Yangon," said Shantha Bloemen, a spokesperson for UNICEF based in Thailand. "And some areas we just haven't been able to reach, although we've tried."

More of the article here.

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