US disaster relief official in Myanmar

May 23rd, 2008 - 12:17 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 23 (DPA) A US official for disaster relief has been allowed into Myanmar for the first time since a cyclone struck the South Asian country three weeks ago and left tens of thousands of people dead, the State Department said. William Berger, who leads a disaster team still waiting to get into Myanmar, arrived in Yangon Wednesday to participate in the ruling military junta’s sponsored tour of the devastated area, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday.

While Berger will be able to get some idea of what kind of aid is needed, Washington remains frustrated by the reluctance of Myanmar’s regime to allow the team of US disaster experts into the country.

“We wish the regime were more cooperative in this effort,” Casey said.

Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, May 2-3, leaving an estimated 133,000 dead or missing and another 2.5 million in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medicine.

The junta has been reluctant to accept outside help despite intense international pressure, and has insisted that much of the aid be distributed by the government, although humanitarian groups have recently gained more freedom to directly hand out aid.

“We’re seeing and hearing reports from our (non-governmental organisation) community partners that aid is getting through, again, albeit not as fast or as quickly as we think it should or could if we were allowed to do more,” Casey said.

An additional five US C-130 flights arrived in Yangon Thursday with humanitarian supplies like water, plastic sheeting and mosquito netting, Casey said, adding the US has been increasingly allowed to give the aid directly to humanitarian organisations already on the ground.

The value of US aid to Myanmar has topped $19 million, the State Department said.

Casey confirmed the US charge d’affaires at the embassy in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, will attend an international donors conference in Myanmar’s most populous city Sunday. The gathering was organised by the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or Asean.

He would not say how much money the US would pledge, saying Washington wants to first see an independent assessment of what’s needed.

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