UN ends Bangkok ‘air bridge’ to Myanmar

August 22nd, 2008 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Aug 22 (DPA) The UN World Food Programme (WFP) Friday shut down its “relief air bridge” to Myanmar after delivering four million tonnes of cargo from Bangkok to the victims of Cyclone Nargis.Thai authorities were quick to offer Don Mueang, Bangkok’s old international airport, as a logistics hub for the massive relief effort for neighbouring Myanmar in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which hit the impoverished country in May, leaving about 140,000 dead or missing and another 2.4 million badly in need of food, medicine and shelter.

The international relief effort was initially stalled by Myanmar’s ruling military junta, which was reluctant to allow an unhindered influx of cargo and foreign aid workers into the cloistered country.

By establishing a logistics hub in Bangkok, the UN was able to eventually speed up air deliveries to the cyclone victims in Myanmar once the regime eased their restrictions.

“For the WFP and the wider UN and NGO community, the air hub was critical for the provision of vital relief supplies to the people of Myanmar,” said Tony Banbury, Asia regional director for the WFP.

In the three months since the opening of the Don Mueang humanitarian air bridge May 24, 232 relief flights were dispatched to Myanmar, he said.

Nearly four million kg of cargo were delivered, including shelter materials, medical supplies, mosquito nets and water-purification equipment.

Ten chartered WFP helicopters were also sent through the Bangkok air bridge, arriving in Yangon in early June, where they flew relief supplies into the heart of the disaster zone in the Irrawaddy Delta.

Two helicopters remain in operation there.

The UN relief effort for the victims of Cyclone Nargis was expected to continue for months, but the delivery system has largely shifted to the affected areas in Myanmar and is being handled by ships and trucks, WFP officials said.

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