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Myanmar opens door to aid

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's junta, facing global outrage for spurning international assistance, appeared to relent Monday, saying it would allow its Asian neighbors to oversee the distribution of foreign relief to cyclone survivors.

It also approved a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and prepared to host a meeting of aid donors, while claiming that losses from the May 2-3 disaster exceeded $10-billion.

A three-day official period of mourning was to begin today for the dead, which numbered more than 78,000, according to official figures. An additional 56,000 people are missing.

Conditions, especially in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta, remain precarious for survivors, who face disease, malnutrition and exposure to the elements.

Heavy rain fell again Monday, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, noting that such weather can have the benefit of providing clean water for those able to catch the downpour with plastic sheeting.

"However, the rain for many others simply adds to the misery as they look forward to their 18th night in often wretched conditions," the agency said. "In addition, access to already relatively inaccessible locations is set to remain very difficult."

Myanmar, responding to entreaties from its Southeast Asia neighbors, promised Monday that it would let them into the cyclone-devastated areas to oversee and help distribute foreign assistance.

But the United Nations said the rest of its foreign staff were still barred from the delta and it described conditions there as "terrible," with hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims suffering from hunger, disease and lack of shelter.

Lt. Denver Applehans runs down the list of what's ready, almost within sight of Myanmar's cyclone-devastated shore.

Four U.S. ships laden with 14 helicopters, two landing-craft vessels, two high-tech amphibious hovercraft and about 1,000 Marines — help that has been there for a week, prevented by the country's military junta from delivering aid.

The ships are capable of providing a huge boost to relief operations for the more than 2-million people believed to be in severe need of help.

"We are currently not providing any aid from the ships," said Applehans, a public affairs officer aboard the USS Essex.

A deal may be in the works, however, to allow the U.S. flotilla — and French and British ships in the same situation — to finally join in the relief effort after Cyclone Nargis.

Though extremely reluctant to allow foreign militaries into the devastated Irrawaddy delta, Myanmar's ruling junta appears to be considering putting Asian intermediaries in charge of ferrying aid from the ships to shore.

How to help

Among aid agencies accepting relief donations:

American Red Cross International Response Fund

P.O. Box 37243

Washington, DC 20013



151 Ellis St. NE

Atlanta, GA 30303


Habitat for Humanity International

121 Habitat St.

Americus, GA 31709-3498


U.S. Fund for UNICEF

125 Maiden Lane, 11th Floor

New York, NY 10038


InterAction, a coalition of aid agencies, lists more groups. Call (202) 667-8227 or go to

Myanmar opens door to aid 05/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:57am]
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