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Governments line up to offer aid to cyclone-hit Myanmar

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) May 5, 2008
The international community rallied to help the victims of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar Monday, answering a rare appeal from the military junta there for aid as the death toll passed 10,000.

As Myanmar's authorities announced the revised toll from Tropical Cyclone Nargis, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pledged to provide urgent humanitarian aid.

"The UN will do whatever (necessary) to provide urgent humanitarian assistance," he told reporters.

A UN disaster assessment team was on stand by to leave for Myanmar, he added.

Myanmar's military junta had shown their willingness to accept international aid, said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

But the practical details still needed to be sorted out, she added.

Some of the junta's biggest critics meanwhile stepped forward with offers of relief.

Washington released an initial sum of 250,000 dollars towards the relief effort.

But US First Lady Laura Bush accused Myanmar's military rulers of having failed to warn their citizens in time about the approach of a killer cyclone.

Bush, who has taken a leading role in shaping US policy towards Myanmar, urged the Myanmar authorities to let a US disaster assistance response team into the country to assess the scope of the devastation.

And she said Washington was ready to increase its initial emergency outlay.

"I hope that the military will realize they have to accept aid from everybody they can possibly accept it from. And maybe that will be the something good that can come out of this terrible destruction," she said.

Bush made clear any assistance would go through the United Nations or international nongovernmental organizations -- and not directly to a regime under US sanctions for failing to embrace democratic reforms.

The European Union released two million euros (three million dollars) in initial emergency aid.

France announced it had made 200,000 euros available and would be working with the Red Cross and French aid agencies to help Myanmar.

The Netherlands' aid and development ministry announced it had released an initial 200,000 euros and said more would be released if it proved necessary.

Norway offered up to 10 million kroner (1.3 million euros/two million dollars) aid; Germany said it was sending 500,000 euros.

Japan is to give 28 million yen (266,364 dollars) in emergency aid, Kyodo news agency said.

Sweden said it would send generators and other equipment through the United Nations.

Thailand said its army would send medicine and ready-to-eat meals from the military's supplies.

Meg Munn, a junior minister with Britain's Foreign Office, said in a statement: "We are deeply concerned by the situation in Burma (Myanmar) in the wake of cyclone Nargis, and saddened by the terrible loss of life."

Nargis struck Myanmar late Friday around the mouth of the Ayeyawaddy (Irrawaddy) river, south-west of Yangon, before hitting the country's biggest city.

Foreign Minister Nyan Win said 10,000 people had been killed and an announcement on Myanmar state television said tens of thousands could have perished in areas where rescue workers had not yet reached.

Win said they would welcome help from other countries.

"We are very busy, we are worried that there are some thousands of people left homeless," added the UN's Byrs.

The Red Cross and other aid agencies meanwhile were already rushing emergency food and water supplies to the region.

The UN children's agency, UNICEF, has deployed five fact-finding missions, while the World Food Programme has delivered 500 tonnes of food to Yangon and generators to Cambodia, added the spokeswoman.

The UN was considering making an urgent appeal for Myanmar, she added. The Red Cross on Monday also said it was distributing food parcels and other aid to cyclone victims.

Save the Children spokeswoman Shaista Aziz said: "Communications lines are very badly affected so it's making it hard for us to assess the extent of the damage.

"We are very concerned about the rural areas along the Irrawaddy delta because it's densely populated."

Aziz went on: "In Yangon many homes have lost their roofs and displaced people are taking shelter in schools, mosques and churches. Many roads have been blocked by flooding and trees."


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Myanmar says more than 10,000 killed in cyclone
Yangon (AFP) May 6, 2008
Myanmar said Monday more than 10,000 people died in the cyclone that battered the impoverished nation, whose secretive military rulers made a rare appeal for international help to cope with the tragedy.

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